He led her into JCPenney's, where he stacked generic looking items on one of his arms and went into the dressing room wearing his shiny black pants and white tuxedo and came out in khaki chinos and a flannel Pendleton.
"Where's your fancy threads?"
"On the floor there. I shed those babies like a sunburn."
"These days, life is fast."
Life really is fast -- too fast to watch old movies filmed in my favorite city; too fast to frequent the bars featured in these films; too fast even to read books by National Book Award winners. This is unacceptable! But it's also one reason I'm excited about Wednesday's Bullets and Booze, an event that combines all of the above into one irresistible package.
The above quote is an excerpt from Denis Johnson's latest book, the noir thriller Nobody Move, which Intersection for the Arts' resident theatre company Campo Santo is adapting for the stage. On Wednesday, April 27, Campo Santo actors will perform short scenes from the play during a tour through San Francisco bars that have been featured in classic noir films.
While this type of creative programming is what we've come to expect from the five-plus decades-old Bay Area arts incubator, when it opens on May 19, the play will be the first-ever theater production in Intersection's new space at 5M, located in the old San Francisco Chronicle building. Having only moved in to the new space two weeks ago, and with a housewarming party this Friday, the folks at Intersection are busy and excited about the future.
Theatre Program Director Sean San José says that this is "the type of event that hints at our new exploration of performance space," and adds that "the play is one of the ways we can merge the borders of literature and performance." If that sounds too heady, relax: "The bar crawl is mainly going to be fun."
Generally excited about the event, but largely uneducated in the worlds of film noir and Denis Johnson, I checked out Nobody Move from the library and watched what I could stream on Netflix: Gene Hackman in The Conversation. The film was pretty outstanding, but of note to me primarily for its depictions of San Francisco in 1974, though there aren't any bar scenes and therefore no previews of where I might end up during Bullets and Booze.
The book, however, gripped me from the first sentence and did not let go. I read Nobody Move in two short days and cannot recommend it highly enough. Written just after Tree of Smoke, which won the National Book Award in 2007, it's hard to believe that Nobody Move is Johnson's first foray into noir. It will not be his first time collaborating with Campo Santo, though; the relationship began with a staging of stories from Johnson's Jesus' Son in 1999, and the company has since made Johnson its resident playwright.
Nobody Move is the story of Jimmy Luntz, a compulsive gambler who owes a few stacks of money to some proverbial bad guys, shoots one of them in the leg, and races through California looking for refuge and that hypothetical last chance that might save the day. What he finds is the stunning damsel in distress Anita Desilvera, wife of a prosecutor who has set her up as the fall girl in a scheme involving a corrupt judge. The two combine forces in a twisted journey that reads like a rollercoaster ride, with scant but breathtaking poetic flourishes and some serious psychological cud to chew. Relentlessly careening forward as it does, and with characters who kick despite being kissed by an existential inevitability, Nobody Move should make for an electrifying live performance.
In an early interview with KQED, Johnson remarked on the benefits of having his work produced for the stage: "I really feel as if I'm being intensely read and deeply appreciated. Maybe it's not by the whole world, but even just a handful. It's great. It's just wonderful. It's a writer's dream." Having seen the work of Campo Santo, and recently devoured Nobody Move, I'm excited to explore the text on a deeper level. With the play a full month away, I'm champing at the bit for whatever previews I can get.
Bullets and Booze will provide just that: previews of the play in some of our city's more famous noir-featured bars.
Bullets and Booze is Wednesday, April 27th, 2011, 7pm at Intersection 5M, 925 Mission Street in San Francisco. For more information visit theintersection.org. The event is sold out at $20, but combination tickets to Bullets and Booze and Nobody Move can still be purchased for $35.