If you like old detective movies and Airplane!-esque parody, then the Impressionable Players’ Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady is definitely for you. And it’s pretty fun for the rest of us too—those with no sense of humor need not attend.
Detective Pimbley (Noah Langer) is a gumshoe that’s more hard drinking than hard working. Despite that, his ex-girlfriend Samantha Sultry (Natalie Pyle Smith) trusts him to solve the murder of her sister Madge. Her other sister Rose (Katie Jeffries) and Madge’s husband Fred (Matt Sparacino) also approach him about the case, each for very different reasons.
To say anymore about the plot would take the fun away, but just know that you’re in great hands with this cast. Langer’s Pimbley is cut from same cloth as Maxwell Smart—accidentally great at his job and totally unaware of his accidents. Langer even has a bit of a Don Adams inflection going on, but Pimbley’s still his own creature. While the character’s tendency to break the fourth wall make him seem aware that he’s in a comedy play, Langer plays the ridiculous situations pretty damn straight. With a naturally affable smile, he wins the audience over immediately, so much so that his best friend being an anthropomorphized whisky bottle is more endearing than silly.
Smith harnesses a fantastically accurate “old movie voice” as Sam, a refreshing variation on a Lauren Bacall-ish character. Jeffries plays a scarily aggressive vamp, batting her crazy eyes at whatever man is in front of her. She is perhaps written a little too over the top, but Jeffries embraces this with some truly entertaining physical comedy. Sparacino towers and glowers over his castmates as the smug blue-blood Frank, whose distaste for Pimbley is hilariously felt.
Ann and Shawn Fraistat clearly have a knack for rapid-fire comedy, though not every joke lands. I also felt like the script didn’t know exactly what kind of parody it wanted to be—it wavered between a character-based Mel Brooks style and a gag-based Zuker-Abrahams-Zucker style, making the tone somewhat uneven. On the flip slide, that’s not one but two great comedy teams I’m comparing the Fraistats to.
Having greatly enjoyed their past Fringe entries, I can’t wait to see what The Impressionable Players crank out next, and I look forward to watching their comedy style develop.
Running Time: 75 minutes.
Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady plays through July 28, 2013 at Fort Fringe – Redrum – 612 L Street NW, in Washington DC. For performance information and to purchase tickets, go to their Capital Fringe page.
2013 Capital Fringe Preview: ‘Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady’ by Ann Fraistat