So if you’ve always had a hankering to see a 40s-era shamus get socked in the kisser – several times – with a rubber fish… then dance with a 6-foot-tall fish who socks him in the kisser with a rubber human, Angel’s Flight is for you. No, this loopy spoof isn’t about the one-car train which used to go up and down Bunker Hill downtown (or maybe it is – I can’t be sure…), and I’m also not sure exactly what the fish is all about, but what the hey? Angel’s Flight is performed in a real bar, where the cosmos aren’t half bad and are served in coupe glasses to boot. Talk about retro – I didn’t think they even made coupe glasses anymore!
But where was I?
Oh yeah. So there’s this dick named Duff (Schoen Hodges) and he’s looking for a dame. What that’s you say? No, he’s not that kind of dick. Well, actually he can be, but only when he has to. He’s a private dick, see? Y’know, the kind of guy you hire when a girl goes missing and you need to find her fast. Which is what one of the women – I couldn’t figure out all their names ‘cause there are a lot of them in this show – does when she shows up in Duff’s office and offers him an insultingly small amount of money to find this other broad.
So Duff goes digging, and runs up against bad cops and worse puns. This is the sort of town where someone has a dog named Sam and Duff suggests they get “Sam spayed.” Get it? If you’re not a fan of The Maltese Falcon, you may not. But so what? No one in The Maltese Falcon got smacked in the kisser with a rubber fish, so how good could it be anyway?
The missing dame turns up and she’s a hot one, in more ways than one: not only is she a looker, but she knows stuff, see? Bad stuff. And it turns out the real reason the first dame hired Duff to find her was to shut her up ‘cause the second dame knows more than she should about drugs. Or fish. Or both.
I’m kinda confused ‘cause following a dizzy dame through rain-slicked streets is sometimes easier than following the story, see? But that’s okay, ‘cause every once in a while, a whole bunch of dames come onstage and do a dance. And they’re pretty good. And they have sparkly costumes, which, after you’ve had a cosmo in a coupe glass, look pretty swell. And the dances don’t have anything to do with fish or drugs. As far as I can tell.
And in the end, the cops and the crooks and the dames and the dick all wind up fine, and everyone has another drink.
Angel’s Flight was written by Benjamin Schwartz and Matt Ritchey (who also directed), and was first produced as part of the 2016 Hollywood Fringe, where it won the Best Cabaret/ Variety Award. But it apparently originated in conversations between its two authors over drinks at the Three Clubs bar, which is within staggering distance – even with a few drinks in you – of the performing space where it all plays out.
That Angel’s Flight was born in a bar is appropriate, as it’s essentially a shaggy fish story with musical numbers thrown in for nothing more than entertainment. It’s sweetly goofy, and Mr. Hodges and the rest of the 13-member cast manage to keep straight faces whether the audience is laughing or groaning.
And the girls actually can dance!
My advice: get there early (doors open at 8:00 for an 8:30 PM show) so you can snag one of the small tables; go to the bar and bring back three drinks per person – the wait at the bar can be lengthy, and the show’s only 45 minutes with no intermission, so be prepared; drink your first cocktail quickly and watch the ladies in their sequined dresses slink around the room; then sit back, sip your other two drinks slowly, and enjoy.
And remember: Duff may be a dick, but you don’t have to be. Tip the bartender well.
Written by Matt Ritchey and Benjamin Schwartz
Directed by Matt Ritchey
Wednesdays through September 28
Three Clubs Cocktail Lounge
1123 Vine Street (just north of Santa Monica Boulevard)
Los Angeles, CA 90038