Billy & Ray Frames Noir

Photo by Chelsea Sutton

From l, Joe Sistrom (Anthony Starke), Billy Wilder (Kevin Blake), Raymond Chandler (Shaun O’Hagan), and Helen Hernandez (Ali Spuck) in the world premiere of “Billy & Ray” at the Falcon Theatre.

A loving recreation of 1940s behind-the-scenes Hollywood, the Falcon Theatre’s entertaining world premiere production of Billy & Ray blends acerbic humor with telling detail in revealing how disparate writers Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler created the classic film Double Indemnity. Touching as well as laugh-out-loud funny, the presentation features outstanding acting and writing in its depiction of film noir’s oddest coupling.

Writer Mike Bencivenga’s witty script combines potent zingers, sly in-jokes, and pointed commentary to examine the messy creative process whereby two writing legends challenged each other and the studio system to develop a film noir classic.

Director Garry Marshall keeps the action and quips flowing through fast pacing and dynamic rhythm. He builds effective emotional and character arcs throughout the show, enhanced by the cast’s fine timing. Marshall draws excellent performances from the small cast, with leads Kevin Blake and Shaun O’Hagan exhibiting a palpable chemistry with each other. O’Hagan lends dignity to the brittle, repressed Chandler, while Blake injects lethal wit to Wilder. Ali Spuck provides infectious charm as wisecracking secretary Helen Hernandez, and Anthony Starke gives an expressive performance as worrywart executive Joe Sistrom.

Production work is also first-rate, from Keith Mitchell’s sleek, studio office sets, to Jeremy Pivnick’s dramatic film noirish lighting, to Terri A. Lewis’ elegant interpretation of 1940s’ wardrobe, save for the contemporary ties and golf hat.

Billy & Ray hilariously presents the creative battles involved in producing the film Double Indemnity, while providing a sympathetic look at two writing legends. The Falcon Theatre presents Billy and Ray Wednesdays—Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 4 p.m. through April 28 at the Falcon Theatre located at 4252 Riverside Dr. in Burbank. Tickets cost $34.50-$37 Wednesdays-Thursdays, and $39.50-$42 Fridays-Sundays. Students with valid IDs can purchase $27 tickets. Tickets can be purchased online at falcontheatre.com or by calling (818) 955-8101.

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