Recommended *** On a cool Friday evening, a cool show transported its audience from present-day Chicago to present-dayish Los Angeles. After a minute long overture comprised of bright lights and hip jazz, two very interesting looking fellows appeared on stage. An Albert Einstein doppleganger met his doom at the hands of a machine gun wielding villain sporting an eye patch. If you think this bizarre scene was an indicator of what was to come, you would be perfectly right.
The next scene featured LAPD Detective Mick Delahunt at a café with a woman. The conversation was very tongue in cheek as the actor playing Mick spent a considerable amount of time expressing his extreme dislike for actors. He told his date that he was also tired of his work and shared that all he really needs “is a good cup of coffee and a level five Sudoku.”
From the streets of Hollywoodland, we were taken to the office of Mick’s Sergeant, Hank. Hank was played with gusto by a fellow with a fake moustache and a faker Chicago accent. When not deriding Mick for not coming to his son’s sixth birthday, Hank made sure to double down on Mick for not being able to let go of his assumption that everything is not tied up when it comes to the murder of Xander Osborne.
Mick follows his hunch, and interviews Xander’s nephew about the case. Cooper offers little in the way of any credible lead, but does dazzle the audience with an encyclopedic knowledge of some plots in classic Hollywood films. After Cooper reflects on the fact he now has nowhere to stay, Mick begrudgingly agrees to let him stay with him. “I hope you don’t mind a futon, kid. I’ll take the floor.” Mick quipped before everything went to black.
The situation only became more depressing after it became apparent that Mick lived above a bowling alley. The constant sound of pins clanking only aided the unusual relationship beginning to take form in the apartment. After remarking about the poster of movie star James Elmore on the wall, Cooper sits uncomfortably through a verbal tirade by Mick about the actor. It comes to be known that the actor was Mick’s unreliable father, and thus his hatred of the art form comes full circle.
After the two roommates fall asleep, Mick has a psychedelic dream about the film star Frederick Wall. While dancing with a martini in hand, Frederick tells Mick that “It’s important to stay cool in the desert” and that “the keys are in the walls.”
The dream is all Mick needs for a lead, and the unlikely duo set out on their way to meet a star. Upon meeting Mick and Cooper, Frederick delivers the first utterance of a memorable runner featured throughout the show. “Who are you guys?” Frederick ponders. “You look like a cop and a kid.” After enlisting his buddy to get some “bear meat for the boys”, the man returns instead with a machine gun. The trio barely escape with their lives before the gunman places a call to a mystery man.
Mick, Cooper and Frederick flee to the Hollywood tunnels and find a basketball wielding Gene Hackman out on the stroll. After giving them directions, the trio bids the enigmatic star farewell, and make their way to an abandoned production studio. While eating popcorn, the trio witnesses the brutal murder of an extra in one of the reels of film. After the film catches fire, the trio is once again on the move.
The crew makes their way to the home of Frederick’s ex-wife/ex-agent. Elle is a no-nonsense woman who takes in the trio but doesn’t take to Frederick’s unwarranted advances. It takes some convincing, but Mick persuades Elle to get Cooper an audition for being a featured extra in a film produced by Mr. Charles Minor. All that’s left for them to do is a training montage.
Now that Cooper is ready, he auditions for the part of Teenage Ghost #4. Mr. Charles Minor takes the kid aside after his audition and remarks that he should be a method actor. So, he attempts to lop of his head with an axe. Luckily, Mick and Frederick are ready to step in for the rescue. They subdue Mr. Minor and coax a confession out of him. It turns out that the big time producer is also a big time serial killer of extras. Elle gets it all on tape and the trio celebrate by taking a helicopter ride piloted by Frederick. “Can you get busted for flying without a license?” Frederick remarked as the show came to a close. While that question remained unanswered, another was clearly known. This show set out to see if a comedic film noir about LA could work in Chicago. That answer was clearly yes.
The cast features Mark Denny, Caleb Fullen, John O’Toole, Dan Bazaldua, Clayton Margeson, and Erin Kay Van Pay. The show is directed by Susan Glynn.
“Desert Cool” runs every Friday at 8:30pm from July 15th through August 19th.
The show can be seen in the Chris Farley Cabaret. iO Chicago is located at 1501 N. Kingsbury. Call 312-929-2401.