Angel Face

Novelist Cornell Woolrich's noir world of dames and bad boys comes alive in Word for Word production


Through Sept. 2. Tickets are $15-36.50; call 626-0453 or visit
Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida (at 17th Street), S.F.

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There are many fine noir details in Word for Word's 90-minute production of Cornell Woolrich's tale of a hardworking dame out to save her love-struck younger brother from the electric chair. But the overall feel of the production lacks the snap and sizzle of Woolrich's writing. A big part of the problem is the two-layer set by Mikiko Uesugi. The multiple staircases and doors are effectively dark and foreboding when empty, yet they end up stunting the flow of the action. The second floor is so high and far back in the large space that all sense of intimacy — like in the great noir film close-ups — is lost. Also, not all the actors make the most of Word for Word's style of speaking every syllable the author penned. There are times when we watch actors say they're about to do something and then watch them do it, a repetition that slows the story down rather than drives it along. The main exception to this is Michael Patrick Gaffney, who flows with ease through the many characters he plays, from deadbeat to detective and back again. Such moments make this production still decent entertainment, propelled by Woolrich's tight plot and wonderfully rich, twisted world.

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