Directed by Emily-Ann Moriarty
Stage Manager – Harmony Austin
Set Design – Greg Phillips
Lighting Design – Benjamin Keegan Arnold
Costume Design – Emily-Ann Moriarty & Misty Baptiste
Sound Design – Jeff Mizener
Props – Emily-Ann Moriarty & Greg Phillips
Greg Sanderson – Eddy Herring
Jan Sanderson – Katie Weekley
George Willowby – Neal Gregory
Laura Sanderson – Molly Bower
Reviewed Performance 1/27/2017
Reviewed by Rachel Elizabeth Khoriander, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Written by Canadian playwright Peter Colley, I’ll Be Back Before Midnight was first produced in 1979 and is one of Canada’s most widely-produced stage plays. Set in a rustic (and possibly haunted) farmhouse owned by local farmer George, the play centers around Greg and Jan Sanderson, a married couple who are trying to rebuild their relationship while Jan recovers from a recent nervous breakdown. To Jan’s chagrin, Greg has invited his manipulative sister, Laura, to join them, and soon strange, terrifying, and sometimes funny events begin to unfold inside the walls of the old house.
Katie Weekley plays Jan Sanderson, the tormented wife, and does so convincingly. She is excellent at riding the emotional ups and downs of her character and has lovely chemistry with the other actors on the stage. In particular, Weekley makes Jan’s nervousness palpable, which intensifies the rest of the play. The audience can hear every breath she takes, and her nervous laughter, hand-wringing, and voice modulation add to an already suspenseful atmosphere. Yet Jan is also stronger than she looks and is willing to stand her ground; Weekley makes it clear that this is because she has little left to lose.
Eddy Herring plays Jan’s husband, Greg Sanderson, with superb timing and gesture. Early in the play, we wonder whether Greg is really as obtuse as he seems, but Herring’s uncertain posturing and wrenching facial expressions convince us that he truly cares about Jan and feels trapped by his sister, Laura. In the end, the intensity and suddenness of Herring’s rage are surprising despite the fact that the audience suspects it is coming. In short, Herring is a dexterous actor who can deliver the many facets of Greg’s character with great agility.
As Laura Sanderson, Greg’s sister, Molly Bower gives a somewhat stilted performance. She is most convincing when sharing the stage with Weekley’s Jan, ignoring her concerns or actively deriding her. Less menacing than apathetic, Bower is less convincing when flatly attempting to persuade Herring’s Greg to leave his wife, giving the impression that Laura’s protestations and feelings are more performed than genuine. Still, she is a strong foil for Weekley, so different are their on-stage energy levels, and she remains in character while very professionally working through a costume malfunction. Rounding out the cast is local farmer, George Willowby, played by Neal Gregory. Gregory’s banter is delightful and his alternately sly and charming cluelessness makes for a highly memorable character. Gregory is particularly interesting when playing opposite Weekley, and the scenes in which George and Jan converse are endearing and add some shock value to later scenes.
Set Designer Greg Phillips creates a meticulously designed space with excellent detail. Bookshelves are filled with geodes, walls are hung with maps, and a desk is scattered with tools representing Greg’s academic interests. An eerie staircase peeks through the doorway to the living room, a bay window opens to rambling greenery, weapons are conveniently placed on walls, and a floor spontaneously oozes blood.
Lighting and sound work seamlessly with the set in all but one instance. (A stereo refuses to stop playing when turned off, but given the haunted atmosphere, it isn’t that surprising.) Whispers float from the top of the staircase; creaking doors, disembodied voices, and beats of a telltale heart are audible throughout the theater; electrical failures and flashes of lightning occur on cue; all contribute greatly to the evening’s creepy atmosphere.
Costuming is simple, yet fitting for each character. In particular, George’s overalls seem made for the character, and the striking difference between Jan’s casual, pink pajama set and Laura’s slinky, silky nightgown is quite telling.
Overall, I’ll Be Back Before Midnight isn’t the sort of show that will provoke any deep conversations on the ride home, but it is packed with plot twists so ridiculous that you will certainly laugh and touches of suspense that, if the opening night audience was any indication, will make you jump in your seat. Colley is a fine storyteller, first-time director Emily-Ann Moriarty and her technical team have a solid vision, and I’ll Be Back Before Midnight is a strong choice for an entertaining evening.
I’LL BE BACK BEFORE MIDNIGHT
215 N. Dooley Street, Grapevine, TX 76051
Runs through February 12th.
Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm with matinees on Sunday at 3:00pm. General ticket prices for are $20.00. Children (18 & under), Student (with ID), and Senior (60 & better) tickets cost $17.00. For info and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.runwaytheatre.com/, or call the box office at 817-488-4842.