A warm glow emanates from the fireplace. The warm feeling radiates through the entire room of richly colored furniture, wood floors and accents, and classic 1920s era tunes. The comforting feel of the expertly designed set (by Dale Simon) is soon replaced with paranoia and raised tempers as two friends prepare for the arrival of dinner guests. What follows is a “mysterious and weird” dinner party where guests discuss everything from film stars and books to murder and ROPE, all in this “complete story of a perfect crime” that even inspired Alfred Hitchcock.
Before we meet the characters, the audience is treated to a unique curtain speech where the show is announced through a radio recording. Tense background music is played under the opening scene as Wyndham Brandon (Nigel Rogers) and Charles Granillo (Greg Davis) ready the room in mood-setting lamp light. Granillo is visibly uneasy, and as his paranoia escalates we notice how calm Brandon is in comparison, even as he casually describes the murder that has just taken place. Brandon also acts as our narrator as he introduces the characters who would be joining them shortly.
The first to arrive is Sabot (Stuart Myles), their French butler who continues to prep for the party, setting up a buffet on a large wooden chest—one that is not meant for blankets or hope. The next to arrive is young Kenneth Raglan (John Cherney), who throughout the evening seems to be more and more taken with another guest, Miss Leila Arden (Angie Schlauch), a delightfully naive young lady with a knack for guessing the truth and wrapping parcels with rope. Sir Johnstone Kentley (Ken Marblestone) came in the hopes of finding rare books, which Brandon had just acquired, and Sir Kentley was joined by Mrs. Debenham (Marie Maginity) whose reactions and facial expressions make up for her lack of vocabulary. Last, but not least, Rupert Cadell (Aaron Wexler) arrives with an air of sophistication and suspicion as soon as he stepped on stage.
The play is well cast and all the actors pull off a prim English accent (not as much of a stretch for UK-native Rogers). I could go into detail as to how each actor worked to build tension, provide comic relief, and how Rogers, Davis, and Wexler all made their emotional transitions look effortless, but this is something you should experience for yourself, especially if you’re a fan of Hitchcock and Masterpiece Theater, which ooze a similar edge and sophistication. The only downside was a lag in Act 2 when the question of whether Rupert would leave or not plagued both Brandon and Granillo. While the constant will he/won’t he added more frustration than tension, especially when it seemed the play should have ended already. Nevertheless, the fitting set, lighting, and sound effects, including a suspense-building heartbeat and tick-tock of a grandfather clock, combined with skillful acting proved that Langhorne Players provides audiences another reason to support theater that “lives dangerously.”
by Patrick Hamilton
Directed by Ken Junkins
October 5-20, 2012
Langhorne Players at Tyler State Park
Newtown-Richboro Rd. (Rt. 332)