Somebody is stealing the signs.
No, that’s not a true crime headline ripped from the pages of the Review, and nor is it the latest #crisis inspiring online outrage and pearl-clutching amidst the members of the Bainbridge Islanders Facebook group (though it has been both of those things of late). It’s what has actually happened to the Bainbridge Performing Arts Theatre School.
According to Pete Benson, BPA’s Director of Education, about 20 posters advertising the group’s upcoming film noir-style Fall Play Fest were recently put up around town — and nearly all of them quickly vanished.
“It’s really funny,” Benson said, taking it all in stride. “I’m hoping it’s because people think it’s hilarious and they want a copy.”
But of course, like any good dogged gumshoe, he hasn’t ruled out darker intent either.
“There’s a band of eco-warrior sign-stealers on this island that go out and try and beautify Bainbridge by stealing all the signs constantly.”
It’s the kind of suburban skullduggery so hopelessly associated with Bainbridge Island as to be borderline cliche — and, ironically enough, exactly the type of behavior that inspired the two original offerings of this year’s aforementioned festival: “Milk Money,” directed by Benson, and “B.I. Confidential,” directed by Havilah Criss; both written by Scott Breitbarth.
The tropes and characteristics of noir are universal by now — hapless heroes, femme fatales, cruel fates, convoluted story lines, flashbacks and voiceovers and dastardly deeds aplenty — but this time the trappings of the genre are getting the true locals-only treatment.
Poor parking and petty disputes, bad doggies, worse owners, stolen sandwich boards and more outrage than you can shake an artisan fair-trade vegan scone at — look to the stage, Bainbridge, and see yourself.
Because your kids do.
“They’ll call out like, ‘My mom does that!’” Criss laughed. “For the middle-schoolers to be able to have an outlet where they can make fun of their culture here, they’re really taking to it.”
The plot of “B.I. Confidential” is truly Chandler-esque in its complexity (involving aliens and authoritarianism, stolen signs and puppy poop bags) and yet somehow simultaneously simple enough that even a child can understand it.
“The main idea is that people are parking outside of the lines, and a lot of the scenes happen in a police station and so they’re kind of mimicking the law enforcement being strict,” Criss said. “People have to focus on the minor things here because there really isn’t a lot of crime here — and they know that.”
As for the younger thespian’s production, “Milk Money” manages to retain many of the charms of noir while keeping things on the lighter side, sort of.
“There’s a kid who is suffering on the street as you get there at the beginning of the play, and two of the more kinder kids try and help her out because she doesn’t have any coat and it’s raining and she doesn’t have any lunch,” Benson explained. “They go out of their way to try and borrow some money from people and they’re not very successful, but then one of them decides to rob from the rich and steals from the snotty rich kid, steals out of her locker.”
A classic noir setup if ever there was one: good intentions leading to bad deeds and, of course, consequences.
“No matter how good you try and be something bad is going to happen to you,” Benson laughed. “It’s all very fatalist and horrible, but we’re trying to do it a jovial sort of way. It’s kind of like this whole Bainbridge Islanders page; it’s still funny. We’re poking fun at all the silly [stuff] that goes on on this island. And I hope people take it that way, as a kind of out-of-the-mouths-of-babes thing.
“I hope we get noticed on the Facebook page and I hope they don’t troll us.”
It was reportedly this year’s particularly contentious election season and some truly bizarre crime stories that served as the initial inspiration to again seek a subject close to home.
“I’m hoping we can lighten the mood a little bit,” Benson said.
“Last year we did a play which was our [version of] ‘War of the Worlds’ based on Bainbridge Island,” he explained. “But this year … I thought film noir might be good. Then the whole idea of Bainbridge Islanders [Facebook page] came to me and Scott Breitbarth as we were just sitting around trying to figure out what to do with film noir, and we were both like, ‘Wait a minute, we can totally base it on all the complaints on Bainbridge Islanders!’ Because it’s so full of material to pull from.
“We just kept tapping into the Bainbridge Islanders page regularly to try and come up with new material.”
Performances of “Milk Money” and “B.I. Confidential” are 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14 and Friday, Nov. 15 at BPA.