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Review: 'I'll Be Back Before Midnight' balances cheesiness, chills

February 14, 2013|By F. Kathleen Foley
  • Ron Orbach, Kate Maher, Joanna Strapp and Tyler Pierce in "I'll Be Back Before Midnight" at the Colony.
Ron Orbach, Kate Maher, Joanna Strapp and Tyler Pierce in "I'll… (Michael Lamont )

Prolifically produced worldwide since its 1979 premiere, Peter Colley's comically dark thriller, “I'll Be Back Before Midnight” now receives a belated Los Angeles premiere at the Colony in Burbank.

Stephen Gifford's moldering farmhouse set, lighted with creepy virtuosity by Luke Moyer, is the ideal milieu for Colley's roller-coaster play, which contains the kind of stomach-dropping twists that will make you hoot with laughter even as you clutch your theater companion's sleeve.

And if some of those twists can be seen coming a long mile down a dark and storm-swept country road, that doesn't really dampen the festivities.

Granted, Colley's staging of his own work with co-director David Rose proves a bit soggy at intervals, such as when the buff lead male parades in his scanties for his morning “warm-up,” a risibly cheesy scene that may have been meant as camp but only violates the audience's sense of reality.

More often, the production strikes a balance between cheesiness and chills.  Of course, every thriller worth its blood-soaked floorboards must have a female in peril. In this case it's recently institutionalized Jan Sanderson (Joanna Strapp), who is aghast when her scientist husband, Greg (overly stiff Tyler Pierce), moves them to a remote farmhouse that would make the “Psycho” set look inviting. 

Although she finds a seeming friend in avuncular local farmer George Willowby (Ron Orbach), Jan is livid when Greg's meddling (and possibly incestuous) sister Laura (Kate Maher), pays a prolonged visit. 

Subsequent brushes with supernatural horror make Jan wonder:  Are Laura and Greg deliberately gaslighting her, or is she going mad?

Cue the organ sting and rolling thunder, courtesy of Drew Dalzell's effectively spooky sound design. 

There's something scratching at the window behind those dusty draperies, and finding out what horror lurks outside is all part of this flawed but entertaining production's fun.

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“I'll Be Back Before Midnight,” Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank.  8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays.  Ends March 3.  $20-$42.  (818) 558-7000, Ext. 15. www.ColonyTheatre.org.  Running time:  2 hours.

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