Saturday, October 17, 2009

American Heartland Theatre: "I'll be Back Before Midnight"

Yawn... "who done it" murder mysteries... one of my least favorite theatre or movie genres. I guess it is my impatience or maybe the knowledge that I am being manipulated that makes these shows a tedium for me.

But, the American Heartland Theatre's (why does Blogger spell check think "theatre" is wrong, I happen to like that way of spelling it) production of "I'll be Back Before Midnight" actually was humorous, fast paced and featured a fine cast and effective sets and lighting.

There was a bit of psychodrama and twisted, sick relationships to keep one involved, but not so much as to repulse and block the forward motion of the plot. The plot is pretty simple, as most of these things tend to be, Jan is a young woman who apparently has just been released from a long stay in a mental hospital. Her husband, Greg, who studies rocks and ancient stone tools at a college under the direction of Jan's father, has rented a farmhouse so that he and Jan can resume their lives. George, the landlord, introduces himself and despite being a simple looking bumpkin, begins to plant the seeds of murderous mayhem by telling tales of murders in the farmhouse, buried bodies and ghosts. Adding to Jan's growing dread, Greg announces his sister Laura will be coming to help out as she travels to a new life out west. Jan and Laura are not the best of friends, to put it mildly.

As the play progresses, the twisted relationships and menacing personalities emerge. George has a lot of secrets to keep, there is a hint that manipulative, cold Laura and very submissive Greg were more than just brother and sister. Jan sends cassettes to her therapist fearing she is about to lose it all again.

The two short acts come to a climax early as the secrets are revealed, motives become clear and the body count rises. The excellent cast (Vanessa Severo as Jan, Darren Kennedy as Greg, James Wright as George and Jan Chapman as Laura) are brilliant as their initial personas fade and their true selves emerge. At the end no one is as they initially seemed, making "I'll be Back Before Midnight" more of a "who are they" rather than a simple "who done it".

The show continues through October 25th.

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