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Review: The Clifton Monroe Chronicles: The Case of the Murderous Mister 

Dalt Wonk on a play that recreates the classic days of radio mysteries

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Clifton Monroe, ace reporter, was at it again in the second chapter in a series written by Ren French and Thomas Adkins, which ran at Shadowbox Theatre. The audience is whisked back to a local radio studio in the 1940s. Noir is a genre usually associated with film or literature, but it also seeped into radio, in programs like The Shadow. "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" Add touches of nostalgia and silliness and you've got the Clifton Monroe Chronicles.

  The second chapter, The Case of the Murderous Mister, featured a larger cast than the first and involved more complications. At times it was hard to follow, but a great deal of fun was had by all, including the players. Clifton (Richard Mayer) seemed more like a private investigator than a journalist, offering a Humphrey Bogart-style mix of machismo and wisecracks.

  The players were lined up behind music stands most of the time, there was considerable doubling of parts and the actors handled some sound effects, like a cymbal crash and high-heel footsteps. Most of the effects, however, were provided by announcer Dane Rhodes.

  Clifton, his sidekick Mathilda Parker (Leslie Boles) and her young brother Chip (Ashton Akridge) are investigating a spree of prostitute murders. Clifton decides to solve the mystery and break the story.

  He enters a labyrinth of vice at the Boom Boom Room strip club. The head vamp, Veronica Crutchfield (Kathryn Talbot), tries to seduce Clifton. She is in the skin trade on two levels; she also runs a brothel on the docks.

  Clifton and his gang go to the brothel and are captured and tied up, and Crutchfield threatens to kill them.

  In a sub-subplot, Mama Pearl (Laurie Kaufman) spins a tale of living in a tent city beneath the Huey P. Long Bridge. Family jealousies lead to murder and revealed identities.

  Under Harold Gervais' direction, the cast was engaging and won over the audience in spite of the story's bizarre twists. — DALT WONK


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