Since opening its doors in 2006, the Overtime Theater has become synonymous with infusing the traditional themes of the theater world with offbeat twists and turns. And The Good Samaritan, which opened at the Overtime August 1, is no exception to this trend.
Branching out from the conventional “eyes fixed stage front” mentality, and even traditional theater-in-the-round, The Good Samaritan — a one-act crime noir set in 1951 San Francisco — utilizes the entire room to make the audience feel like part of the show. As for the show itself, fans of Overtime’s raucous comedies might want to look elsewhere. The Good Samaritan, directed by Andy Thornton, is a dark, disturbing whodunit that features plenty of R-rated language, violence, adultery, and even, ahem, some unexpected same-sex trysts.
Samaritan’s pair of homicide detectives — Blake (John Poole) and Winters (Michael Burger) — find themselves on the trail of a knife-wielding serial killer, one who’s taking out unsuspecting victims at a faster rate than the cops are accustomed to. And while the first quarter of the hour-long performance indicates two cookie-cutter cops are working the case — Blake a hard-nosed, no-nonsense type, Winters of the fresh-faced, calmer variety, played with over-the-top, “good cop, bad cop” gusto by Burger and Poole — the audience is soon treated to glimpses of each detective’s personal life.
Blake, a devoted husband who’s also married to his job, is stuck with a drunken wife and a nasty nicotine habit. Winters, meanwhile, is married as well, albeit to a wife who suspects him of sleeping around. These suspicions are indeed justified, as Winters has previously snuck around with a laundry list of ladies, including an ongoing fling with a doctor at the morgue.
In following the trail of the dead, Winters and Blake stumble upon a church telephone help line, one that each victim oh-so-conveniently called just before meeting his or her demise. The genre’s traditional race against time ensues, but while The Good Samaritan is a whodunit in the traditional sense, its quality — unlike throwaway slasher flicks like Scream 3 — isn’t based solely in waiting for the killer’s identity to be revealed in the final scene. The perpetrator is fingered much earlier in the play, and the enjoyment of The Good Samaritan is instead based in watching a troupe of talented actors sink their teeth into playwright Scott McDowell’s tense and dramatic — but fun — script.
Unlike such Overtime signatures as All Kinds of Hot, Johnny Gets Sick, and Sob, Choke, Love, Samaritan is violent, serious, and on occasion downright depraved. But just like those comically themed works, it’s also enjoyable as hell.
The Overtime Theater
1216 West Ave.
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