Review: ‘Dirk’

Douglas Adams' immensely convoluted novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" has been turned into a slightly less convoluted legiter, rendered delightfully stageworthy by the synergistic collaboration of helmer Jeff Griffith, a creative design team and a thoroughly committed Road Theater Company ensemble.

Douglas Adams’ immensely convoluted novel “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” has been turned into a slightly less convoluted legiter, rendered delightfully stageworthy by the synergistic collaboration of helmer Jeff Griffith, a creative design team and a thoroughly committed Road Theater Company ensemble. In an impressive display of how to “open up” a performance area, “Dirk” incorporates a seamless integration of onstage action and digital multimedia projections that supercharge a wordy, overly complex plot into an engrossing, often hilarious journey through the natural and supernatural realms.

Co-scripters James Goss and Arvind Ethan David have dutifully translated Adams (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) to the stage, infusing the novelist’s quirky, hypercerebral musings within the persona of Dirk (Scot Burklin), a London-based private detective whose interests lie in telekinesis, quantum mechanics and finding someone to pay for his pizza, rather than investigative procedures.

Burklin’s trenchcoat-attired Dirk possesses an endearing amalgam of social gracelessness and opinionated holistic fatalism as he launches into an investigation that incorporates the search for a missing cat, the machinations of a bewildered ghost, a secret time traveler, an absent-minded writer, his long-suffering girlfriend, a failed magazine publisher, an apoplectic police inspector and the devastating doomsday secret that lies behind the totality of human history.

Helmer Griffith corrals this overabundance of information and personal agendas by having the action flow from the stage to multimedia rear-wall images (executed by Lee Osteen, Matt Kaiser and Anaitte Vaccaro) and back again as one continuous, unbroken thematic thread.

Attention-challenged Richard, played to befuddled perfection by Tripp Pickell, can thus be seen actually and digitally breaking into the flat of his angry girlfriend Susan Way (Heather Williams). The same can be said for the sad fate of Susan’s brother Gordon (Daniel R. Vasquez), who suffers a multimedia murder but whose ghost wanders freely onstage.

This free-flowing interaction of live and pre-produced images is enlivened by colorful ensemble portrayals, especially Carl J. Johnson’s captivating turn as deceptively doddering Reg, Richard’s former college tutor, who as Regius professor of chronology has no apparent duties or responsibilities other than to spend his time executing childish conjuring tricks. Also noteworthy are Ambre Low’s ragingly antisocial portrayal of Dirk’s salary-challenged assistant Janice and James K. Ward’s constantly frustrated Inspector Gilks.

The production design contributions of Desma Murphy (sets), Luke Meyer (lighting), Caryn Drake (costumes), and Dave B. Marling and Lee Osteen (sound) do much to underscore the veracity of Griffith’s vision. However, the inclusion of a surrealistic Busby Berkley-esque ensemble song-and-dance routine, choreographed by Stephanie Stearns, does nothing to enhance the proceedings.

Dirk

Road Theater; 42 seats; $25 top

Production

A Road Theater Company presentation of a play in two acts by James Goss and Arvind Ethan David, based on the Douglas Adams novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency." Directed by Jeff Griffith. Choreography, Stephanie Stearns.

Creative

Sets, Desma Murphy; lighting, Luke Moyer; costumes, Caryn Drake; sound, Dave B. Marling, Lee Osteen; multimedia, Lee Osteen, Matt Kaiser, Anaitte Vaccaro; music, Jeff Marsh. Opened, reviewed Sept. 29, 2006; runs through Dec. 2. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast

Dirk - Scot Burklin Richard - Tripp Pickell Michael, Perkins - Dennis Gersten Reg - Carl J. Johnson Susan Way - Heather Williams Gordon Way - Daniel R. Vasquez Janice, Lady Magna - Ambre Low Inspector Gilks - James K. Ward

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