One of the most beloved film series of 1930s Hollywood, The Thin Man starred William Powell, Myrna Loy, and a dog named Skippy as Nick, Nora, and Asta Charles. In between pitchers of martinis, the couple cracks wise, lives well, and solves crimes, often murders. Based on a story by Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man presents a version of detective work that’s lighthearted and comic, as opposed to the more existentially challenged Sam Spade, Hammett’s other canonical detective character — the one played by Humphrey Bogart. In this videotaped stage performance, a sharp group of actors brings the original Thin Man story to life as a radio play. It’s a video of a live stage performance of a famous movie done as a radio play, got it? Matthew Taviannini and Jenna Scanlon are the leads, and they conduct the snap and crackle of Nick and Nora’s witty banter with aplomb. Madison Widener is the femme fatale Julia Wolf, and Laksmini Wyantini has some fun turns with a stuffed animal as Asta. Katie Laris directed the intricately blocked and plotted production in an exemplary state of high COVID alert.
Out of its usual context on the Turner Classic Movies channel, The Thin Man gives one pleasure and pause in roughly equal proportions. There are some funny lines, and the story moves at a respectable pace, but there’s something old-fashioned about the construction of the thing. It’s too full of Nick slashing through obvious lies, and it ends in a dinner party for all the suspects that’s straight out of an Agatha Christie country house. What lingers is not so much the charm of Nick Charles (who is not the Thin Man by the way; that’s the dead guy) as it is the feeling that all these excellent actors are overdue to perform in front of a live audience again. In the meantime though, see The Thin Man, a Live Radio Play online through May 8 at theatregroupsbcc.vbotickets.com.