Portland's Premier Film Noir Horror Comedy Muiscal
The Adventures of Dex Dixon: Paranormal Dick
With all the nuance, technical sophistication and unvarnished authenticity we've come to expect from the auteur behind Varsity Cheerleader Werewolves Live From Outer Space, Steve Coker returns to the Funhouse stage as writer, director and star of this scattershot satire. However fond of easy jokes, the Orson Welles of overblown, underproduced comic meta-spectacles evidently enjoys a challenge. Though detective stories might be the only genre less ripe for parody than the '80's teen horror of his previous project, the Grimm vet's repurposed screenplay manages to wring fresh laughs from well-worn tropes. Employing the rhythms of hard-boiled gumshoe narration to hurtle through the expository fine print about a mirror dimension inhabited by vampires and zombies - who seem, worryingly, more familiar than men wearing hats and defending reputations - Coker's garrulous baritone punches up the gag-laden voiceovers. It also proves a charismatic foil for the swing-era tunes crooned throughout by an assemblage of richly talented, naturally funny, youngish performers. Continuing through intermission as surprisingly effective entr'acte entertainment from actresses already dolled up to play lounge singers, the hit parade of Greatest Generation standards bleeds a seriousness of intent otherwise absent in the proceedings. It reveals a creative vision, forged by immersion in the excesses of schlock culture, that honors the workaday artists who fueled show business well before the monsters took over. JAY HORTON.
Welcome to the Night Side
Smart creative team makes "The Adventures of Dex Dixon: Paranormal Dick" an entertaining ride. by MARIA CHOBAN
Riddle: Who’s in charge of Night Side? That shady town full of werewolves and vampires, creeps and ghouls accessible from our “normal” world only by wily private eyes like Dex Dixon, Manix Marloe and Carl Kolchak, The Night Stalker?
Answer: Why, Frank, the ventriloquist benevolent puppet dictator.
That revelation comes early in Stumptown Stages’ dizzily entertaining new musical about an aging paranormal private eye, premiering at Portland’s Brunish theater as part of Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival. “Filled with puns, guns, vixens, vamps, monsters, music, and mayhem,” the debut run ends today, Sunday, January 31.
Our guide to Night Side, Dex Dixon, is played by Steve Coker, who also wrote the book for The Adventures of Dex Dixon: Paranormal Dick, designed the scenes, shared the task of writing the music and lyrics with K.J. McElrath, acted the part. He is also the artistic director of Stage Works Ink. If that isn’t enough to get him elected mayor of Portland then I’m stumped!
But Coker is only part of an exceptional creative team whose combined efforts made Dex Dixon one of Fertile Ground’s most captivating shows.
Jaime Langton’s witty choreography flowed seamlessly between those with less dance experience like the Vamps (cute little foot twists in “Surrender”) and Dixon and his trusty sidekick werewolf, Lobo (some sweet soft shoe in “Old Dog, New Tricks”) to the veteran dancer playing Nelly, the dangerous dame who sizzles in “Frisk Me, Dex.” More than just well thought out dance steps was the caricature imparted to the dancers and dances. Sydney Weir’s Nelly captured the pretzeled bodied zombie I’ve never seen in a zombie flick but completely believed. Weir isn’t just a clean crisp dancer, she’s a physical actor imbuing Langton’s choreography with over-the-top personality. She crossed and uncrossed her dangerous-dame legs sleazier than Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. And I mean this in a good way. Two more dance reasons to get you to this show: “The Brainsucker Tango” and the the monster mash between the Weres and the Zombies in “Dex in Danger.”
DD uses a live jazz club quartet prominently displayed visually and aurally. And aural is where the show breaks down. I sat on both sides of the stage and missed about half the lines and even more of the lyrics. Mixing is only partly the reason. A muffled dull speaker system the other. I don’t recall this being an issue in the last musical I saw in this space, or maybe I was so bored by the banal lyrics I tuned out. Dex Dixon, however, is predicated on delicious “Danger Dame At Work” (by Paul Muller) pulp-poetry and puns. Care needs to be given to the audience experience: Are we ALL catching every one of those lines, asides, lyrics?
What song lyrics I caught promised great depth for those I missed. I loved the refrain exchange between Lobo the Werewolf and DD:
Lobo: (to the aging private eye) Old Dog!
Dex: (bristly) New tricks!
“Any Port in a Storm” got the fairest hearing in part because Danielle Valentine’s voice is so strong.
The acting is mixed. Illya Torres-Garner’s gleefully over-the-top Horus, the evil Vampire cracked me up, reminding me what might happen if Inigo Montoya hung out with the wrong crowd. Sean Ryan Lamb’s Lobo, the nervous cuddly werewolf, peppered his cats-on-internet hyper cuteness with Brian the Dog wry physical humor. And while I appreciated the low key likeable approach Steve Coker took with his detective, especially his frequent improvised asides to the audience, I felt his Dex Dixon went over too easy. I wanted harder boiled. Or maybe I just needed to hear the lines. Maybe Frank the Benevolent puppet dictator can straighten it all out.
Without giving too much of this show away because I expect it to come back shortly in an extended run, the scene design and props are the stars. Go for Bill Holznagel’s creation, Frank, the ventriloquist dummy. Stay for the Chinese dragon costume-like slithering trolls. Take in the simplicity of a bridge between two worlds, with two ladders. I seem to always come to the same conclusion about shows I love: It comes down to IQ and this is one of the smartest teams I’ve seen in a long time.
Maria Choban-- Oregon Arts Watch, January 31st 2016
'The Adventures of Dex Dixon' is a fun, feisty noir parody (review)
This weekend, "The Adventures of Dex Dixon: Paranormal Dick" premiered at the Brunish Theatre -- the same weekend Fox began its reboot of "The X-Files."
Except for a chupacabra or human sewer worm, "Dex Dixon," a goofy, overplotted 1940s-noir-inspired horror musical, is crammed with a good number of "X-Files" monsters of the week.
Gumshoe Dixon (Steve Coker, who wrote the book and co-wrote the score) battles and/or befriends werewolves, vampires, zombies and trolls in a quest to keep the citizens of our "normal" world safe from the blood and brain-hungry denizens of "Night Side."
Produced in conjunction with the Fertile Ground Festival, Coker's musical homage to old-school movie monsters evolved from a web series. Though there's a lot to like in this labor of love — the undead characters and many of the parody numbers are a kick — the transition from online to live theater is still buggy.
Line of the Night: "I'm Dex Dixon, paranormal dick. The guy you call when the average dick won't do."
Strengths: Director Kirk Mouser keeps the silliness moving at maximum flow, with enough comic pauses to let the puns and double-entendres sink in. You laugh. You groan. But you respond. Loudly.
Coker, who sang his double-wide's doors off as Rufus in "The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical" in December, jazzes up a storm with a vampy vampire in "You Pull My Strings."
For a musical in which he's the star, Coker's written the werewolf's share of material for his ensemble. It's a generous move that pays off with numbers like "You Can't See It At All" (the wallflower secretary secretly in love with her detective boss) and "Key To Your World" (vampires plotting world domination).
Working with the undead, choreographer Jaime Langton has crafted fierce footwork that goes well past "Thriller."
And the production, from the noir-nightscape set to the creepy, puppeted trolls, is imaginative and impressive.
Weaknesses: Act I is almost entirely expository. It's a procession of introductions. Thirty minutes in, we've met half a dozen characters and started several threads of plots that don't pick up until much later. In fact, we don't see a gun, blood, severed limb, attacking zombie hordes, clan of vengeful vampires and a howling pack of werewolves until the show's second half. Give us something meatier to munch on before intermission.
Lee Williams- Oregonian, January 25th, 2016
Dex Dixon, is a hard-boiled paranormal investigator at the beginning of the end of his career. He lives in Our Fair City, a gritty urban jungle just across the dimensional rift from Night Side, a city populated by the movie monsters of old.
Ten years after Dex was exiled from Night Side, a mysterious woman arrives requiring his special skills to solve a mystery, and Dex finds himself returning to his old haunts, and an old flame.
The Adventures of Dex Dixon is a Film Noir, Horror, Comedy Musical filled with puns, guns, vixens, vamps, monsters, music, and mayhem.