Equals parts 1940s film noir, Lovecraftian horror and Norse myth, Requiem for a Gumshoe, presented by Eldritch Theatre, is a loving parody of all three. With sincere affection for its genre tropes, each beat is note perfect even as it winks at us.
Our protagonist in this stylish nightmare world is Rick Fischmasher (Eric Woolfe). If his hat and trenchcoat don’t clue you in that he’s a hardboiled detective, his overwrought, descriptive similes will do the trick. This warlock-private investigator is on the hunt for an ancient cosmic evil and, he hopes, some redemptive relief from his son’s death.
Woolfe is a dynamic performer. Weaving impressive close-up magic into this macabre tale, he makes a variety of gruesome objects appear and disappear; and even conjures a portal to the demon realm with side-show trickster charm. His goofy persona is as nuanced as it is entertaining.
Mairi Babb and Lisa Norton flesh out the story with an array of colourful parts. Their work with masks and puppets is great fun. They also shine in more naturalistic roles. Babb offers tasty intrigue in her portrayal of two sisters—the damsel in distress opera singer, Alice Signet; and her sister, Gloria, a femme fatale nightclub chanteuse. Norton’s turn as Rick’s bitter and sad ex-wife, Myrna, was an emotional highlight for me.
Through all the nudging and winking, the self-awareness is expansive enough to contain multitudes. We invest in these characters because the story beats, though silly, are strong.
The macabre aesthetic features Woolfe’s endearingly grotesque puppets. Particularly innovative and hilarious are the fabric gore effects. With his lighting, Gareth Crew drenches the actors in clashing purples and greens, immersing everyone in eerie pockets of shadow and luminescence. Sparing use of creepy video projections help sell the mood.
Melanie McNeill’s set is an understated, German expressionist spectacle of angular doorways and forced perspective. The actors seems to pop in and out of this frame, pulling various curtains of plastic, sparkling gauze or velvet to set their scenes.
Though I find H.P. Lovecraft’s actual writing insufferable, I kinda dig the overall thematic vibes. And, as always, Woolfe’s heartfelt, campy treatment always gives it a resonance that draws me in. His fusion of genre elements is clever and purposeful.
Director Dylan Trowbridge maintains the immersive atmosphere even as the ghoulish nonsense breaks the fourth wall. I love how fluidly our understanding of this world shifts. We are always wondering how much of these eldritch shenanigans are the figments of a tortured mind.
Requiem for a Gumshoe is a freakish delight.