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Theater Review: Preview of Murder
By Heidi W. Moore

Photo © Old School Theatre
Whodunnit, and what's it to ya? That's detective fiction for you, and fans of this special brand of pulp will get a good dose in Preview of Murder, opening this week at the 2001 New York International Fringe Festival in New York City.

A private detective, a Hollywood starlet has-been, a former leading man, a movie mogul, cops and bellhops place this piece of 1949 theater squarely in the heart of detective fiction, and it's a genre that absolutely fascinates director John Peterson.

But don't let the flying bullets and dead bodies distract you from the real excitement of this play: the language. Producer Dawne Seifert's adaptation of the short story by Robert Leslie Bellem loses none of the tongue-in-cheek style that characterized the work of a pulp novelist best known for creating the legendary character of "Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective" from The Dan Turner Stories of the late 1930s and early 1940s.

 Photo © Old School Theatre
Theatergoers should pay particular attention to Bellem's fondness for alliteration, and the powerful use of architecture—or more accurately, lack thereof—through language. Mansions and hotel lobbies can be made distinct within the dialogues that create the scenes and make set design almost unnecessary; indeed, elaborate technical structure would detract from the snappy banter and there's the danger our fast-paced friends would get hung up on it.

The real mystery with Preview of Murder is author Bellem's intent: since very little is known of his personal life, it's impossible to be certain if hardboiled was truly his method. We are encouraged to explore the play as if it is serious, but it may not be.

Preview of Murder is presented as part of FringeNYC, a twelve-day international event with more than 180 emerging theatre companies and performing artists. Each year FringeNYC is held on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in 20 venues within 15 blocks of each other. All of them are easily accessible by mass transit, and within walking distance of parking. The festival runs Friday, August 10, through Sunday, August 27, from 12:00pm to 2:00am daily.

Preview of Murder will be performed at The Mazer Theatre, 197 East Broadway, from August 14 - August 25. To learn more about Preview of Murder and old school theatre company, visit www.oldschooltheatre.com, or call 212.636.9417. For tickets and information on any of the events, call 212.420.8877 or 1.888.fringenyc, or visit their site at www.fringenyc.org.

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