The vodka in my drink was strong enough to steam the gangrene off a GI's leg and tasted as bitter as my last heartbreak, so I left it on the bar. I was sitting next to three kids from Santa Clara University. They were squirrelly, like 10-year-old boys huddled around a girlie magazine in their neighbor's toolshed, but that could have been all the ballet they were taking. On my left was a vivacious redhead. She'd had a few but don't let that fool you: she was as sharp as the icicle you use as a murder weapon in a lateral thinking problem and an expert in Chandlerology. The room was dark but not so you'd have to grope, unless you wanted to. We were at Thirteenth Floor Theater's Being Raymond Chandler, choreographed by Jenny McAllister, at ODC's Studio B.
The premise for the piece is transparent, like the windows they left uncovered at the rear of the stage, which let light through, like they're supposed to do. David Silpa as Raymond Chandler is hacking away at his latest novel, but the novel's not novel, get me? Erin Mei-Ling Stuart plays the hot brunette in the slinky red dress. She's the love interest, so pay attention. She's got good lines and great legs and enough muscle to let you know that she doesn't need a pearl-handled pistol to get on top. Blane Ashby is the pale faced pressure cooker, the second fiddle who wanted to be a trombone so he took to committing murders. Angel-faced Julie Mahony and femme fatale Nicole Nastari come together, if you know what I mean. They're the nurses and factotums, so if you think like a PI, you'll keep an eye on them. You'll do it anyway if you like pretty dames. Patric Cashman and Eric Garcia are wild cards. One's the detective and the other's the body, but the body got in more action than the dick.
The dancing isn't pretty, but it's pretty smart -- more like physical theater than some dames in tulle, taps, or other instruments of torture. The dancing's got a sense of humor, too, the way it makes fun of theatrical tropes, like when the characters assemble in a morbid melodrama starring a discarded cigarette, and laughs at modern dance imagery, like when Ashby "drips to the floor like a melted candle" and when an "unseen figure" drags Cashman's body across the stage. The death scenes are terrific. If you don't think so the first time, you'll get enough chances to change your mind. The kids and I enjoyed the jokes. The dame to my left liked the love story. And there's a bar right outside the stage door.
Thirteenth Floor Dance Theater presents Being Raymond Chandler at 8 p.m. on Nov 2-3 at Studio B, ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell, S.F. Tickets are $18-$23; 13thfloordance.org.