If I Die Before I Live: A Sonny Kitchen Mystery, ComedySportz. The hard-boiled detective is usually tied to the 1920s and ’30s. But playwright Eric Lindberg borrows as much from latter-day authors as from Raymond Chandler. PI Sonny Kitchen–played by Lindberg himself–has a decidedly soft-boiled countenance, but sinewy film noir good looks are not what make this adventure so much fun. Nor is the plot, involving humble schnooks and exotic villains, including the obligatory oriental vamp, in pursuit of a (yawn) priceless talisman.

Lindberg has done his homework. So has his cast–though some more than others. Under Dave Buckman’s direction, and assisted by Stephanie McCullough’s perfectly selected score of sax-driven music, the actors maintained a firm grip on the required atmosphere (if not their props on opening night), rejecting caricature to project the tough-tender humor that’s the hallmark of the detective genre.

Ultimately the measure of successful parody is whether an audience unaware of its satirical intent can still enjoy it. If I Die Before I Live, penned by an aficionado who loves his source too much to sell it cheap, passes this test with flying bullets.