ColdTowne Theater's Deja Noir

Double Indemnity provides the structure for an improvised and hilarious riff on those dark crime films out of the past

Courtesy of ColdTowne Theater

I first moved to Austin the night of my 21st birthday. Barring a few months in Italy and my recent year in Brooklyn, I've been here ever since. I turned 40 last month.

This was my first ColdTowne Theater show. And that's a shame, because I've clearly been missing out.

You may have noticed an uptick in improv coverage lately, as we work to throw a little more ink toward our unscripted pals. I'm happy we're doing this, though it does expose my shameful lack of knowledge of Austin's improv scene (as I mentioned in my recent review of Golden's Speak No More). I'm discovering that these shows do not always have programs or much information available online, so I've had to dig a bit to put names to faces. I'm glad though, as it gives me a chance to learn about the many talented improvisers in town (being Facebook friends with Kaci Beeler and Roy Janik isn't quite enough. Is it?).

Deja Noir features plenty of these talents. Directed by Sandra Annell Fountain and produced by Katie Moore, the comedy is structured around the 1944 film noir classic Double Indemnity, though knowledge of that film isn't necessary to enjoy the fun and games. Going into detail about the movie wouldn't be beneficial to you, as it would rob you of the twists and turns in the show. Although, it's possible those twists and turns are different every night, so it might be worth your time to at least head over to Wikipedia. The unscripted narrative form allows for the often-hilarious exploration of film noir archetypes. It seems the performers have a basic understanding of what the scenes are, what order they follow, and what objective must be eventually reached; otherwise, it's anything goes. A soft soundtrack of saxophone and bass provides the perfect ambience, along with live piano accompaniment by Natalie Wright.

Joseph Dailey (one of the two performers I recognized) plays the Barton Keyes role. In his tan trenchcoat and fedora, raspy voice, and ever-present cigarette (a convincing e-cig, which, hilariously, all the characters seem to have most of the time), Dailey is the perfect noir character. In fact, every performer is great, committed fully to each other and their often-over-the-top characters, taking risks and having fun. Jill Bailey, Brian Bonnet, Tyler Tipton, and Christian Huey all display a wide range of talent as they savor every slow, jazzy word and action on their way through the scenes. I must throw a special nod to Betsy Anderson for her wonderful character work in multiple roles. There's even a song later in the show, which I assume is improvised as well, by the silky-voiced Megan Sherrod (the other performer I recognized).

Fountain believes that when things get dire, it's a good time to laugh, and that's why she was drawn to the idea of a noir comedy. Though I caught the show on preview night and there may be some changes by now, what I saw was as entertaining as it was interesting. I've never been that great at improv myself, so I have a lot of respect for those who are. Deja Noir is certainly an experiment in unscripted genre storytelling, and though the pacing may not always feel spot-on, watching skilled improvisers explore their characters in such a hilarious fashion made for a worthwhile hour of comedy.

Deja Noir

ColdTowne Theater, 4803 Airport
Through March 10
Running time: 1 hr.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More ColdTowne Theater
Loverboy at ColdTowne Theater
Loverboy at ColdTowne Theater
This troupe's improvised scenes based on personal sex stories prove ColdTowne is still a fun place to catch local comedy's up-and-comers

Ashley Moreno, July 1, 2016

<i>FamiLIES</i> at ColdTowne Theater
FamiLIES at ColdTowne Theater
In taking characters beyond improv to a scripted format, this ColdTowne project delivers an exaggerated imitation of life

Wayne Alan Brenner, June 17, 2016

More Austin improv
Golden’s <i>Speak No More</i>
Golden’s Speak No More
This fully immersive, silent improvised drama is mysterious, creative, and a most worthwhile theatrical experience

Shanon Weaver, Jan. 19, 2018

The Hideout Theatre’s <i>Local on the Eights</i>
The Hideout Theatre’s Local on the Eights
Improvised local news for the fictional town of DeWitt turned up some big stories (and funny ones) before and behind the camera

T. Lynn Mikeska, Dec. 22, 2017

More Arts Reviews
Jarrott Productions’ <i>The Father</i>
Jarrott Productions’ The Father
The play presents dementia from the sufferer’s perspective, but it suffers from a shortage of emotions besides exasperation

Elizabeth Cobbe, Feb. 16, 2018

Golden Hornet Project’s String Quartet Smackdown IV
Golden Hornet’s String Quartet Smackdown IV
In this “hoot” of a competition, every one of the 16 compositions was a gem, but only one was voted the champion

Robi Polgar, Feb. 16, 2018

More by Shanon Weaver
Southwest Theatre Productions' <i>If I Forget</i>
Southwest Theatre Productions’ If I Forget
While the play is a compelling kitchen-sink drama, this staging doesn't quite reach the promise of the material

Jan. 26, 2018

Austin Playhouse's <i>The Immigrant</i>
Austin Playhouse’s The Immigrant
The company delivers a powerful and timely account of foreigners making a new home in the U.S.

Jan. 12, 2018


ColdTowne Theater, Austin improv, Deja Noir, Sandra Annell Fountain, Katie Moore, Natalie Wright, Joseph Dailey, Jill Bailey, Brian Bonnet, Tyler Tipton, Christian Huey, Betsy Anderson, Megan Sherrod

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle