Knights of Malice

While “Knights of Malice” is not the best effort from local director Mickey Reece and his version of the Mercury Theatre players, it carries the most distinctive opening: that of the “Star Wars” crawl.

Turns out, there’s a reason for the Jedi-rific reference, but I leave that for audiences to discover when the film debuts Saturday at City Arts Center. As usual, Reece has turned his premiere into a party, with free beer from Titswiggle Brewing Co. and the requisite musical guest, Joey Paz of Norman band Luna Moth.

In “Malice,” mild-mannered Joan (Stacey Cunningham), a night-shift receptionist at a bail bond office, shares fluids with slacker Tucker (Jacob Ryan Snovel), but no emotions or information. Instead, her heart belongs to her Don Draper-channeling boss, Jack (Dustin Sanchez).

Being introverted, Joan doesn’t let him know, so her sexy, snooty pal (Rebecca Cox) does something about it: She seduces Jack, who belies his clean-cut image by asking for dirty talk and to be spit upon. So begins a skewed, dangerous love triangle, or quadrangle, or perhaps something that isn’t quite a shape. At times, Reece’s narrative is equally malformed, as if it tries to be two to three things at once, with no single approach winning out.

Still, it’s tough to dislike. Cox and Rhianan Hilliard are hilarious as Joan’s oil-and-water friends. Their dialogue and others’ remain sardonically smart — witness: “Sounds like an international best-selling trilogy written by Stephen King if he had a stroke and started writing novels for pedophiles,” and “Let’s not kid ourselves: You have the physical attributes of a snapping turtle.”

Rod Lott

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