The Twilight Zone
By Rod Sterling
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL
Don’t you need permission to do this stuff on stage? Tonight we experience four short plays by Rod Sterling, television master of all things sci-fi and horror. These scripts date back to the Golden Age of Television and freaked out my entire generation. No one has really replicated that terror on the small screen since, and out of respect to the author’s reputation for tricky endings I’ll be a little vague here on what exactly happens.
Opener “The Hitchhiker” (directed by Tabitha Rox) follows a young woman (Victoria Burns) as she heads west from NYC to sunny LA. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge she sees a hitchhiker (John Segers) and nearly runs him over. But he reappears more and more often the closer she gets to Gallup, New Mexico until she panics and calls mom for help. When the story pays off, it managed to get a nice shiver down my cynical old back bone.
Director Tom Larkin tackles “One For The Angels.” Here pitchman Bill Horine lives alone and sells odds and ends on the street. He’s visited by Mr. Death (John Segers) and does one of those classic “duping the Devil” twists. Of course, supernatural powers have their ways and a young girl is held hostage until the world is back in balance. Bonus points: One of the funniest special effects staged in Breakthrough.
Mr. Segers doubles as our host; he’s a seriously creepy stand in for Sterling in his undertaker’s suit and dead pan radio voice. He also takes off his coat for “The Midnight Sun” (directed by Tara Corless). In this early metaphor for climate change, the world plummets toward the sun as Jennifer Rea and her land lady (Juli Goldstone) struggle to hang on in an overheated New York apartment building. John Segers appears drops in again as the Desperate But Decent Man With A Gun, all he wants is a drink of water and then he’s off. The Sterling twist here isn’t as strong here, but there’s a tension to the piece.
We close with “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” under the direction of Robert Cunha. Unlike the other pieces tonight this one is done script in hand by a large cast, it has more action than a radio play normally offers and it often feels chaotic. Here a neighborhood is cut off from power and telephone, and a young boy suggest this is just like a comic book he’s reading – the aliens are invading, and they’ve sent advance parties that have blended in perfectly. ‘Ha-ha” you think, but it’s the same psychology that worked so well in the H. G. Wells “War of the Worlds” panic. Here people take turns building suspicions of their neighbors; the hot potato goes around in a circle until someone is killed. Positives: action is well choreographed and the show moved quickly. Negatives: lots of yelling and over acting; this needs more build before people started yelling.
It’s nice to see a few non-zombie shows this pumpkin season; the house was packed and the thrills were family friendly. And you can buy treats in the lobby!
For more information, please visit http://www.breakthroughtheatre.com or look them up on Facebook.