Somewhere in the 1930s English countryside, a quiet cottage will be sent into chaos. The charming valet is a ruthless serial killer. Before the final curtain there will surely be a dead reckoning. And then, “Night Must Fall!”
The Douglaston Community Theatre is currently presenting a murder mystery with a sharp psychological edge. In this ominous tale, we know the killer’s identity from the opening scene. But watching his personality decay before our very eyes creates a fascinating variation on the typical whodunit.
Director Madelon Avallone skillfully utilizes a cast of community theatre veterans. They, in turn, diligently convert a very wordy script into a series of mesmerizing character studies.
Gary Tifeld as the often likable, sometimes terrifying and frequently pitiable murderer, Dan, keeps us watching with incredulity. After all, he seems like an everyman with strengths and weaknesses. But then his eyes glaze and he plunges into a visibly unnatural world of his own making. These significant emotional changes vary from subtle to sweeping. Ultimately, we sense that he is doomed.
Dan’s latest target is wealthy hypochondriac Mrs. Bramson, played by Marilyn Welsher. Her list of theatre credits, both onstage and behind the scenes, stretches over many fruitful years. In this project, she is an elderly curmudgeon who is deceived by Dan’s superficial flattery. Ironically, she reveals her own deception when she effortlessly walks away from her wheelchair.
Another community theatre veteran, Annette Daiell, portrays paradoxical Olivia Grayne. She confronts Dan verbally as she penetrates his disturbing behavior. Even so, she falls in love with him! At one point she lies to the investigating detective, pretending a suspicious hatbox is her own. In fact we know it belongs to Dan’s sinister souvenir collection.
These surprising personality twists create an effective theatrical tool. After all, Olivia is supposed to be “normal.” Yet her actions are extremely unnatural.
Supporting actors capably portray likable nurse Libby (Cathy Cosgrove), unrequited suitor Hubert (Dan Bubbeo), sarcastic housemaid Mrs. Terence (Laurie Dentale), clueless, clumsy housemaid Dora (Kelly Schmidt) and steadfast Scotland Yard Inspector Belsize (Joe Pepe).
Housed at the Zion Episcopal Church Parish Hall (Church Street off Douglaston Parkway), the DCT Players have been entertaining audiences for decades. For information on this and future productions call 718-482-3332 or surf to www.spotlightonstage.com.
As always, save me a seat on the aisle.