The Runner Stumbles for DCT Players
BY CLIFF KASDEN
Stark sets and brooding lights create a sense of foreboding in this controversial mystery melodrama. Unfolding in the bleak days before the First World War, “The Runner Stumbles” exposes the scandalous relationship between a priest and the parish schoolteacher, Sister Rita. Why was she murdered?
Director Linda Hanson has returned to the Douglaston Community Theatre (DCT) Players for this project. Hanson is well known in the region as a talented actor, director and award-winning playwright. She has selected an eclectic mix of performers for “Runner.”
Annette Daiell (Mrs. Shandig) has appeared in close to a dozen DCT productions. On opening night, she represents a twisted voice of hypocrisy. How will she react to the priest’s shocking behavior? Rick Brody has also worked with the troupe on several projects. He is cast as the tormented Father Rivard. Clearly, his religious passion is in competition with his mortal passions. Will his mundane but honorable duties for the parish be overshadowed by his far less noble behavior?
Patricia Damon is a welcome newcomer to DCT. As Sister Rita, she clashes philosophically with the conflicted Father yet forges a forbidden bond with him. Later, when she removes her nun’s habit for everyday attire, the audience is witness to her baser actions. If punishment was in order, was her mysterious murder a fit sentence?
The taut, dark mood is maintained by the supporting cast. The town’s menacing jail keeper Amos (John Casper Pilate) is starkly contrasted with vulnerable Erna (Amie Backner). Equally striking are straightforward Monsignor Nicholson (Don Curran), self-important Mrs. Donnelly (Barbara Mavro) and the Prosecutor (Edward Hughes). They use words and body language to hurl the weight of their morality against Father Rivard and his defense attorney Toby (Peter Rowan). Poor Toby has never tried a criminal case but he eagerly tries his whiskey flask at every opportunity.
It’s hard to decide if the play is an intense drama that just happens to be a murder mystery or vice versa. No matter how you look at it, the material is extremely thought provoking. The audience is deliberately kept at a level of discomfort which is never fully resolved. Even the surprising conclusion is somehow not enough. No doubt, this strategy was well conceived by the playwright.
A quick bow for the backstage anchors includes Ed Dzioba (sets/lights), Michael Nigro (music), Ginger Witt (sound effects), Dana Jaffe and Marionanne Rourke (director’s assistants), Sarah Indelicato (props, concessions), Russ Camarda (tech support) with Harry Gross, Michael Wolf, Rich Weyhausen and Stan Zwerling.
The DCT players are on a limited run at the Zion Church Parish Hall. It’s located at 44th Avenue off Douglaston Parkway. Call (718) 482-3332 for information.
May’s flowers help brighten Queens stages this month. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.