Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
I’ll Be Back Before Midnight
By Peter Colley
Directed by Roseann Wilshere
If you like a spooky murder mystery with haunting noises, curtains flapping and lots of blood and gore, then I’ll Be Back Before Midnight is just the play for you. “Jan” has recently had a nervous breakdown, and her husband “Greg,” an archeologist, has rented an isolated farmhouse in the country where she can recover. “George,” the farmer from whom they are renting, shows up and tells ghoulish stories about a horrible murder that once took place – in this very room! Evidently the ghost of the bestial murderer still haunts the scene from time to time, and there are strange noises in the night - also the lights keep failing. Can things get any worse for Jan’s peace of mind? Well, yes they can, for her bitchy manipulative sister-in-law “Laura” arrives with matching three-piece luggage.
Collette Clavadetscher plays Jan sweetly as the innocent victim of all this ghastly mayhem. At first we were told that she had recently “been ill” and I didn’t realize that she was recovering from a nervous breakdown. She is fairly calm at the beginning of the play, but then we do need the contrast as she becomes more and more jumpy and disturbed as things go bump in the night. Collette handles Jan’s barely controlled hysteria very well as the body count increases in the second Act.
Ken Yakiwchuk is suitably devious as Greg, the seemingly solicitous husband who tries to drive his wife out of her mind, while Mark Bennett steals the show as crazy old farmer George. Mark does have the best lines, and he makes the most of them. And Candace Luciano as half-sister Laura manages to be nasty and cute at the same time as she slinks around the stage – I found myself wishing that she had more lines. It’s too bad that she’s shot at the end of the first Act, though she does still hang around.
This is a tough play to produce because it’s almost a parody of the genre. Although there are some frightening moments with blood on the floor and three dead bodies on stage at the end of the play, for me it wasn’t a totally satisfying mystery. It’s really an action play with some clever twists in the plot such as when we discover that good old farmer George is also in on the conspiracy to drive Jan crazy. Roseann Wilshere plays it straight so that we can believe in the characters, and she also pulls off some amazing special effects. I enjoyed the sound – the choice of music (I particularly noticed excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem) was very good, and then we had the heartbeats and various spooky sounds. The actors all performed well in a complicated play with lots of “business” to handle – windows, doors, pill bottles, whiskey to drink, coffee to spill and guns to fire. Everything went smoothly and believably – much credit to Roseann and her talented cast. Congratulations also to Stage Manager Diane Jones and her Assistant Kathleen Morris, to Production Assistant Richard Roche and a very hard-working crew.
On the evening that I attended, we had the privilege of meeting the author Peter Colley and his wife. Evidently this was a first for LLT – having the author in attendance – and for Peter this was the first production of his play in Mexico. Truly an auspicious occasion! The next production is Best Wishes by Bill Barker directed by Peggy Lord Chilton, opening on December 8th. I am assisting backstage on this play, so the guest reviewer will be the talented and knowledgeable Shirley Appelbaum. Best Wishes!