FRINGE 2017: The Detective, The Dame and The Devil

Jazz music, incessant cigarette smoking, murder—this piece of detective fiction has it all! Everything that comes to mind from a murder mystery set in the 20s, right down to the pinstriped suites and showgirls, The Detective, The Dame and The Devil has it. What it also has in addition to your standard detective story staples are lame puns, cheap gags, and running jokes that give the whole show fantastic continuity. It was perfect. Small details revealed at the beginning of the show were easy to pass off as mere silliness, but so often they would tie into the plot in unexpected and incredibly silly ways, making the whole show completely hilarious and impressively well thought out. Throw in some plot twists and we have a winner!

The story itself is fairly simple, not very complex. There’s not actually a lot of mystery to the murder, no following the footsteps of an autistic genius detective and his ex-military companion as they scour for clues with inhuman powers of observation. Instead, the story is laid out plainly in front of us with clear, easy-to-follow details, until an unexpected plot twist elevates the intrigue of the play to the same level as its comedic mastery. We are then taken through the story again, this time walking through the shoes of another character.

This is where the brilliance of the play really begins to shine. We’re shown the same 12-odd hours from the point of view of the 3 characters in turn; first the detective, then the dame, and finally the devil. Each time we watch the same day unfold before us, the characters that we just got to know change, sometimes becoming themselves through their own eyes, sometimes transforming into the people that one of the other two see them as. The variations these characters evolve through are staggering. Even as each character is re-revealed, the attention to detail in their costumes is just as impressive as the changes in their personality. Small things like the length of a neck-tie or a glittery handbag are like rings on a pond—extending further and more subtly than is easily perceived.

The costumes weren’t the only details that exuded mastery in the performance—the set itself was a work of brilliance. There were three places that we saw on stage: the detective’s office, a jazz club, and a warehouse. Each time we saw the same scenes played out from different perspectives, the orientation of the set changed to match the change in perspective based on which character was narrating. It really helped to illustrate what is possibly the underlying message of the play: a thought-provoking commentary on seeing the world from perspectives other than your own. Either that, or it was a chance to make as many jokes as possible in an hour. Regardless, it was an undeniably brilliant work of comedy, mystery, satire and silliness and it is well worth adding to your list of shows to see this year.