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Posts Tagged ‘i’ll be back before midnight’

I’ll Be Back Before Midnight!
by Peter Colley
Directed by Justin Been
Stray Dog Theatre
February 4th, 2016

Angela Bubash, Jeff Kargus Photo by John Lamb Stray Dog Theatre

Angela Bubash, Jeff Kargus
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog Theatre’s latest production, Ill Be Back Before Midnight! presents something of an enigma. It’s presented as a mystery/thriller, but it often comes across as something of a parody.  SDT has assembled an excellent cast, and the production values are good as always, but it’s something of a puzzling story.

The play’s central character is Jan (Angela Bubash), who has just been released from the hospital after an extended stay following a mental breakdown. Her husband Greg (Jeff Kargus) has brought her to a somewhat rundown country house with the idea that the remote location will help Jan to recover and help the two to strengthen their strained relationship.  There’s a friendly neighbor, George (Mark Abels) who helps to make the uneasy Jan feel more welcome, but the imminent arrival of Greg’s overbearing sister Laura (Sarajane Alverson) isn’t a pleasant thought for Jan, to put it mildly. This premise, wrapped up with some local ghost stories and Jan’s growing suspicions of the people around her, leads to a traumatic event at the end of the first act that ultimately leads to an initially suspenseful but surprisingly contrived and anticlimactic conclusion.

I don’t get what this play is trying to do, to put it bluntly. It’s got some comedy elements early on that help relieve some of the building suspense, and the events of the first act and most of the second are sufficiently chilling. The ending, however, is a disappointment, almost coming across as a parody. The actors do a good job of making the characters interesting, with Bubash’s sensitive and increasingly suspicious Jan as the standout. Bubash makes a likable and convincing protagonist, drawing sympathy as the story builds and her fear grows. Kargus is fine as Greg, especially earlier in the play, and he does the best he can with the bizarre last scene. Abels is amiable and a little bit mysterious as neighbor George, and Alverson is sufficiently imperious as the domineering Laura.

 The technical aspects of this show are impressive as usual. Set designer Rob Lippert has provided an appropriately dilapidated country cabin, with cracking plaster, an old wood stove, and more. Eileen Engel’s costumes are well-suited to the characters, and Tyler Duenow’s lighting effectively achieves the eerie atmosphere and heightened suspense required for the production.

Overall, this is a show worth seeing for its performances. It’s a strong cast, and and interesting story although the ending falls flat, and that’s the fault of the playwright more than the production.  Still, I’ll Be Back Before Midnight! is well-staged and, for the most part, a suspenseful, intriguing story.

Sarajane Alverson, Jeff Kargus, Mark Abels Photo by John Lamb Stray Dog Theatre

Sarajane Alverson, Jeff Kargus, Mark Abels
Photo by John Lamb
Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog Theatre’s production of I’ll Be Back Before Midnight! is running at the Tower Grove Abbey until February 20, 2016.

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