Black Friday, Live Bait Theater. Two distinct visions of cold-war America emerged in the era’s popular periodicals. While Archie comics and Better Homes & Gardens touted prefab domesticity in the form of neighborhood malt shops and plastic seat covers, pulp magazines and dime-store paperbacks exposed America’s grim underbelly. In a cruel twist of fate, Leave It to Beaver has remained in syndication since the 1950s while the crime novels of David Goodis have been relegated to antiquarian bookstores. But Christopher Peditto’s faithful adaptation of Goodis’s 1954 potboiler is more than an attempt to call attention to an unheralded author; it taps directly into a world of bloodthirsty thugs and hapless con artists, filling the stage with instantly recognizable noir tropes.
Which is precisely what makes Live Bait’s production of Black Friday so memorable. Jerry Fortier’s dimly lit, dingy scenic design creates a sweltering, oppressive environment where one false move can cause a mountain of trouble. Smaller touches like Joe Fosco’s quiet sound design and a pan of eggs sizzling on the stove help set the ominous tone. Even more impressive, the entire cast–but particularly Leo J. Harmon as aging crime boss Charlie and Tom Fiscella as the unlucky pariah Hart–have the hard-boiled shtick down pat. From the opening silhouette of a gunman firing into a reclining figure to the taut standoff at the climax, Black Friday oozes style.