Killer Thriller Mystery
In a departure from the comedies and farces that usually grace the stage at Playhouse II, I’ll be Back Before Midnight is a murder mystery thriller. You are guaranteed to gasp out loud, be jumpy and startled, and then you will wonder “whodunit”. But along the way, you will have some laughs, too. (And not just because someone in the back row let go with a loud sneeze at just the right moment, scaring the dickens out of you.)
This play was first performed at the Blyth Festival in 1979. It’s interesting to see the changes in 35 years. Groceries arrive in brown paper bags. There is an 8-track player and the cassette tape recorder, which has an important role, as does the dial phone. The lack of cell phones is certainly a key factor – if characters could easily call police, the action would come to an early end.
Jan (Daniela Vlaskalic) is just out of the hospital after an extended stay for her mental health, and her husband Greg (Andy Pogson) decides that relaxation in a desolate country farmhouse is just what she needs. The farmer next door (and owner of the house), George, (Sandy Winsby) drops by and mentions that it’s haunted, of course. Then Greg’s overbearing sister Laura (Elana Post) comes to visit, much to Jan’s dismay….and that’s about all that can be told without spoiling the thrills and chills.
The first act sets up the exposition: as with any murder mystery or thriller, the audience needs to know all the characters and understand how they came to be in this house. It must all be plausible. If the playwright asks too much of the audience, they won’t be open to the big scares. The writer also has to set up the killer, ensuring that it’s feasible, and then set up the “red herrings” so that the audience starts guessing who is going to die and “whodunit”.
In act two, the action takes place, and certainly in this story there is plenty as it builds to the conclusion. Daniela Vlaskalic is good as the troubled wife – the character waivers between nervousness, giddiness and anger; we are concerned about her recovery. Andy Pogson is excellent as the loving husband and brother. Elana Post is perfect as the sister with attitude. Both Pogson and Post played the same role at Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia five years ago and their expertise shows.
Sandy Winsby provides the comedy as George the farmer – when Greg introduces his wife, George assumes they are newlyweds, but Greg explains she’s not a new bride. “Very few are these days,” George quips. Winsby gets the audience on his side, has them laughing, and then surprises them.
The set – a realistic farmhouse living room – is very well done, and the special sound effects impressive. The lighting is excellent, taking us back and forth between dim nights to bright lights, as well as flashes of lightning in a thunder storm.
The plot has many twists and turns before it reaches its final conclusion, and it’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Kudos to director James Kall for keeping it moving. Even after a day at the beach and a big dinner, you won’t doze off in this one.
I’ll be Back Before Midnightcontinues with eight shows a week until July 13 at Huron Country Playhouse, Playhouse II, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
Photo: Daniela Vlaskalic, Sandy Winsby, Elena Post, Andy Pogson in I’ll be Back Before Midnight. Photo by Gary Moon.
I’ll be Back Before Midnight
By Peter Colley
Directed by James Kall
Performed by Andy Pogson, Elana Post, Daniela Vlaskalic, Sandy Winsby.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Playhouse II, Grand Bend
July 3 to 12, 2014
Reviewed by Mary Alderson