Erik Jackson’s “Tell-Tale” incorporates familiar scraps of film noir, vintage horror classics and Charles Addams cartoons into an extended comic drag sketch. Lacking originality and inspiration, the piece serves mainly as an outrageous showcase for drag diva Sherry Vine (also known as Keith Levy).
Vine, as Lenore Usher, portrays a neurotic illustrator of lurid bestsellers. The agoraphobic femme fatale seduces a menacing pizza delivery man, clubs him with a meat cleaver, dismembers him and stashes the assorted body parts in a cabinet. Jackie Beat, looking like Sydney Greenstreet in drag, is Lenore’s caustically cunning housekeeper-secretary, masterminding an insurance fraud upon her employer.
Double entendres abound, supported by an echoing caged raven (named Poe), and continued slashing and dicing is accompanied by blaring musical motifs borrowed from Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and “North by Northwest.” With “cleansing thunderstorms” as an omen, Beat vamps to Harold Arlen’s “Ill Wind.” To fatten the convoluted plot, Levy engages in a deadly tango with a doomed visitor, and offers a throaty rendition of Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind.”
Not one but a dozen bodiless crawling hands and assorted unconnected limbs fill the absence of chorus boys, a strained, campy bit of choreography that misses the mark of an intended Busby Berkeley spoof.
Joshua D. Rosenzweig’s staging is busy and forced, letting his players broadly go over the top. Kevin Adams has created a sterile white cubicle for the action, while Marc Happel’s sequined costumes serve as a Sherry Vine fashion show.