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Theater Reviews: “Flemming (an American Thriller)”

Cris O’Bryon (Henry Flemming), Walter Murray (Stan Spencer), Kristin Woodburn (Suzy Spencer)
Photo credit:
Ken Jacques

Lots of men have midlife crises, but few take them to such an absurd extreme as Henry Flemming.

In Sam Bobrick’s “Flemming: An American Thriller,” Flemming turns 40, and just like that quits his dull but lucrative securities business to become an independent gumshoe. That’s right, a private investigator.

His wife Karen thinks he’s lost his marbles. Next-door neighbor Stan (a shrink of dubious competence) hopes so; he can’t wait to probe all those fears and phobias he’s sure lurk deep in Henry’s libido.

“Flemming” won the top award at the 2008 International Mystery Writers Festival with this clever homage to film noir and the social mores of the 1960s. Robert May directs a fine production through April 30 at Scripps Ranch Theatre.

Karen likes her comfortable life as is. She is fearful of the changes in Henry’s behavior, all the more so when he flashes his newly-acquired pistol at her. And she’s positively horrified when people start showing up dead in their living room.

But Henry – despite adventures with a hoodlum named Vito and Lt. Davis (a plain-clothes cop) that leave him with bruises and torn clothes – seems in his element, with more zest for life than she’s ever known him to have.

Can this marriage survive? Can Henry avoid becoming one of the stiffs on the living room floor? Will Stan – the world’s most obnoxious and intrusive neighbor – stop annoying Henry?

The answers to this vital questions will be answered to much hilarity in the course of this crazy but fun play.

Cris O’Bryon, most often seen onstage at the keyboard, gets a chance to stretch his considerable comedic acting chops as Henry, and he’s obviously having so much fun that you can’t help but follow suit.

Beth Gallagher is a great foil as Karen, increasingly fearful but fascinated as she watches Henry’s transformation.

Walter Murray is even amusing as the loud and boorish Stan – no small feat. And Kristin Woodburn is clever and witty as his wife Suzy.

Matt Thompson (as the cop), Daniel Gurian as hoodlum Vito, Michelle Marie Trester as Flemming’s secretary Miss Havenhurst and Steve Schlam as Karen’s dad make memorable contributions as well.

The production is handsome and very ’50s in black and white. Credit Bob Shuttleworth for the spiffy set and Dawn Fuller-Korinek for the costumes. Jennifer Edwards makes good use of lighting and shadows, and Violet Ceja adds drama with her sound design.

“Flemming” won’t strain your gray matter but may feed the adventure-seeker trapped deep inside you. If not, it’s guaranteed to make you laugh.

The details

“Flemming (an American Thriller)” plays through April 30, 2017 at Legler Benbough Theatre, 9783 Avenue of Nations, off Pomerado Road in Scripps Ranch (on the campus of Alliant International University)

Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (858) 578-7728 or scrippsranchtheatre.org