North Vancouver Community Players
Death by Chocolate by Craig Sodaro

Dates and Venue 22 October - 6 November 2010 at 8pm | Hendry Hall

Director Clive Saunders Lighting Design Phil Messenger Sound design Anne Marsh Stage Manager Leslie Whittaker

Reviewers Kate Scallion & Melanie Ewan

Opening night of the North Van Community Player’s production, Death by Chocolate, had a packed theatre hanging off every word of the cast. Set in New York, the play opens in the office of private eye, Nick Noir (a typewriter set up in a back alley on some crates). It doesn’t take long to see that Noir may not be the most able detective, that his secretary, Selma, is thoroughly smitten with him, and that between the two of them, she’s got the better head for problem solving.

Moving from Noir’s “office” into the Precious Perks coffee shop, the audience is introduced to the full cast: aspiring country star Bobbie Sue, three of the regular patrons, and the twin-sister owners, Coco and Bonbon Purvis. Noir makes little headway coming to any conclusions about the mysterious death of a customer until Selma comes back, in an array of disguises, to help Noir solve the murder mystery.

Director Clive Saunders admits that Death by Chocolate is a groaner of a play. While some of the lines were obvious, the play was very charming and very well done. Kim Gordon had the house in streams of laughter as Selma, Michelle McTaggert did a wonderful job as Bobbie Sue, howling away the coffee menu and rendering it nearly incomprehensible to customers, while Margo Leviton stamped authority all over the play as Bonbon Purvis.

Although I couldn’t resist shaking my head as some of the one-liners, I did really enjoy the play. Its light-heartedness was the perfect antidote to a gloomy and cloudy Friday evening. It was impossible not to smile and laugh at countless points in the play. Although the audience was primarily middle-aged couples, I think the play would also be an excellent family production that children and adults would love and enjoy alike..

© 2010 Kate Scallion

This past Thursday I had the pleasure of sitting in the second row at Hendry Hall for the North Vancouver Community Players production of Death by Chocolate. Opening night launched with a bang, as the sold out seats filled with a lively audience. The play began in darkness with ‘New York, New York’ ringing over the speakers, and as the lights came up we found ourselves in the makeshift office of Nick Noir, the incompetent yet loveable private eye, played by Paul Griggs. The tone was set in the first few minutes as the audience meets Noir and his all-too-underappreciated secretary, Selma, played by Kim Gordon. Not only do their interactions afford the audience some chuckles, but we also discover the darker side of the play; the case of the death by chocolate.

The remainder of Act 1 is set in the Precious Perks coffeehouse, where the infamous hot chocolate drink is sold. Here we meet an array of characters who are all wonderfully shifty and have a fantastic ability of making the audience suspect each and every one of them. We meet “Frenchie”, the food critic, the oddly young looking old man and his lady friend, the woman dressed in black, the country singing barista and a pair of incredibly opposite twins, who happen to own the café and are aptly named Coco and Bonbon. As the tale unfolds in Act 2 things get even more bizarre as we learn who each character really is and why they are there; twists and turns dot this play, and will keep you guessing, as they kept Noir guessing, until the very end.

One of my favourite aspects of this play was that Noir would often talk to the audience, explaining what he was thinking; this not only helped to understand Noir better but also gave a dramatic pause to the scene in which each character would freeze where they were, contorted facial expressions and all. Another fun twist was the use of musical clippings whenever something really dramatic occurred. I felt that the story moved along easily with never a dull moment, and that both the characters and plot where unravelled well.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this play. It was humourous and fun while at the same time being a great mystery which kept me on the edge of my seat waiting for more.

© 2010 Melanie Ewan