Arriving late to the Butt Kapinski hype, I'm struggling to see what all the fuss is about. Film noir tropes are so parodyable and have been so oft-parodied that any improvised, audience interaction show built around them needs to be truly inspired. Perhaps I attended on a flat night. But the crowd seemed engaged to me, as Deanna Fleysher—in the guise of the eponymous private dick—contrived a story on the fly with an escalating body count and the sex and sleaze trappings of any number of hard-boiled crime stories.
Circling through the audience with a spotlight suspended over his head, Kapinski can pick anyone at anytime to cast in his story as a lowlife character, ensuring that you're kept on the edge of your seat throughout. Finding a volunteer to provide a jazz soundtrack (a game, talented chap on the night I saw it), it's this crucial element of outsourcing so much of the spectacle that sticks in my craw.
When it flies, it's because someone responds with surprising invention to Kapinski's open-ended enquiries. But when, understandably, some clam up or stammer something clunky, Fleysher isn't—on the whole—a deft enough improviser to do more than just quickly move on. That the plot is skeletal, meandering and contradictory wouldn't matter if there was genuine invention in the set-ups or hilarity in the collapses. But the supreme anticlimax of the murderer's coached confession ensures Fleysher needs to tack on a meta-theatrical epilogue, which still doesn't justify what went before.