Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Signature Theatre Cloak and Dagger

By • Jun 17th, 2014 • Category: Reviews
Cloak and Dagger
Signature Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA
Through July 6th
90 minutes without intermission
$29-$79 (Plus Fees)
Reviewed June 15th, 2014

With plenty of PG-13 rated Borscht Belt, burlesque-style “nudge nudge, wink wink” spinning humor, Arlington’s Signature Theatre is bringing a musical bauble, the premiere of Cloak and Dagger or the Case of the Golden Venus.

It is musical theater under the confident direction of Eric Schaeffer meant to bring a respite from the real world. And that is a very good thing, given the real world lately.

Cloak and Dagger has a full complement of hard-working purposeful groaners of jokes that Milton Berle may have written, some delightful hip-swinging ala Mae West by way of Harvey Feinstein, and mugs that Sheldon Leonard once played. If those names are fresh in your mind, along with Sunday nights with Ed Sullivan, or a trip to the Catskills, or perhaps the modern equivalent, a cruise ship meandering about. You can have a ball especially if you are in the mood for some anodyne bawdiness.

As the Signature marketing material notes, the storyline is this: “Third-rate detective Nick Cutter is down on his luck when a beautiful blonde bombshell tosses a very intriguing case (and herself) into his lap. For the next 90 minutes, Nick races through every New York neighborhood in this zany, mile-a-minute whodunit.” All in early 1950’s New York City. It isn’t Stacey Keach as Mike Hammer, but as a singing detective.

Four actors play the nearly 20 roles. Well make that two actors play nearly 18 roles. The cast includes Erin Driscoll as Jessica Rabbit, oops, I meant Helena Troy. Driscoll was most recently seen at Signature in The Three Penny Opera. Down-on-his-luck Detective Nick Cutter is played by Signature newcomer Doug Carpenter. The other 18 characters are under the amusing purview of Helen Hayes Awardees Christopher Bloch and Ed Dixon.

Oh, and one other small detail. Dixon also wrote the book, music and lyrics for this world premiere production of Cloak and Dagger. His score of about nineteen numbers, including several reprised songs, is a pastiche of lyrics and melody that mimics the spoofing nature of the production and its off-beat characters. There are plenty of percussion and sax-like notes that emanate from conductor Jenny Cartney and her jazzy four-piece band that includes keyboard, reeds and drums. Colorful orchestration by Jordon Ross Weinhold adds personality to each of the characters.

Some cute songs and their titles include “A Real Woman” with a vamping Mae West (Dixon) and an animated “Shake Your Maracas” (Bloch and Dixon). Driscoll gets to use her lovely, lovely voice in a torchy number entitled “Doors Close.” Carpenter’s beefy baritone opens the show with musical introductions of what the show is about: “The Worst of Times” and “The Best of Times.” Is the score memorable? Not really. But so what.

As for the dialogue; the quips can be witty shtick delivered with a knowing glance to make sure the audience is in on it. The broad pokes at the many different people who make up New York are not meant to harm.

The show is full of old-fashioned, New York City accented car-chase speed playful dialogue. The actors move about the minimally adorned stage (Daniel Conway) through three well-used doors, matching the dialogue delivery speed. There is also a large, sturdy-appearing marquee over the doors that provides a place for large black and white photos of New York City to be seen to set a New York state of mind.

The ever-changing costumes for Block and Dixon by way of Kathleen Geldard are a bright treat of flowing silks, or perhaps polyester, character defining hats, suits with wide lapels, and bemusing cross-dressing attire. And, there is also one very special neon yellow glowing image of the Lady in the New York harbor. Wig designer Anne Nesmith certainly enjoyed herself with her campy selections. As for Driscoll, she is wrapped in a form-hugging, cardinal red pencil dress.

Up for something with amusement, silliness, and banter propelled by a lively score and excellent voices? Then head off to Cloak and Dagger at Signature Theatre. It is a screwball musical to ice you down during this summer heat wave. Marvel at what tongue-in-cheek delivery whether straight dialogue or song can prove; a good time.

Photo Gallery

Helena Troy (Erin Driscoll) sings 'Doors Close' Helena Troy (Erin Driscoll) tosses an intriguing case to Nick Cutter (Doug Carpenter)
Helena Troy (Erin Driscoll) sings ‘Doors Close’
Helena Troy (Erin Driscoll) tosses an intriguing case to Nick Cutter (Doug Carpenter)
The Irish Landlady (Ed Dixon) sings 'A Real Woman' Manny (Christopher Bloch) sings 'An Agent'
The Irish Landlady (Ed Dixon) sings ‘A Real Woman’
Manny (Christopher Bloch) sings ‘An Agent’
Helena Troy (Erin Driscoll) sings 'Chinatown Blues' Fat Tony (Ed Dixon), Nick Cutter (Doug Carpenter) and Gino (Christopher Bloch) sing 'Who Put the Mob In'
Helena Troy (Erin Driscoll) sings ‘Chinatown Blues’
Fat Tony (Ed Dixon), Nick Cutter (Doug Carpenter) and Gino (Christopher Bloch) sing ‘Who Put the Mob In’
Stanley (Christopher Bloch) and Helena Troy (Erin Driscoll) Nick Cutter (Doug Carpenter, center) and Pinsky's Chorus Girls sing 'Shake Your Maracas'
Stanley (Christopher Bloch) and Helena Troy (Erin Driscoll)
Nick Cutter (Doug Carpenter, center) and Pinsky’s Chorus Girls sing ‘Shake Your Maracas’

Photos by Margot Schulman


  • Nick Cutter: Doug Carpenter
  • Helena Troy: Erin Driscoll
  • Character Man Two: Christopher Bloch 
  • Character Man One: Ed Dixon

Artistic and Design Team

  • Book, Music & Lyrics by Ed Dixon
  • Directed by Eric Schaeffer
  • Orchestrations: Jordon Ross Weinhold
  • Music Director: Jenny Cartney
  • Scenic Design: Daniel Conway
  • Costume Design: Kathleen Geldard
  • Lighting Design: Collin K. Bills
  • Sound Design: Lane Elms
  • Wig Design: Anne Nesmith
  • Stage Manager: Julie Meyer
  • Musicians
  • Conductor/Keyboard: Jenny Cartney
  • Reed 1: Ben Bokor
  • Reed 2: Scott VanDomelen
  • Drums: Mark Carson
  • Disclaimer: Signature Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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    is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.

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