“Night” Offers Evening Alternative

Well the Woodlands Science and Art Center is planning some relief. How about live theater, right here in The Woodlands? But first, a little background:

The Woodlands performances of Main Street Theater’s production of Emlyn Williams “Night Must Fall” are being sponsored by W.S.A.C., which, under the direction of founder, Doug Kilgore, began bringing theatrical productions to the Woodlands two years ago, and has also sponsored Science Lectures and co-sponsored a Chamber Music Series at Montgomery College.

Advance publicity on “Night Must Fall” describes the play as “an intriguing foray into the mind of a killer. Murderous intent is clear from the outset as Dan [Jason Davis], a charismatic and disarming young man, ingratiates himself into the household of the wealthy Mrs. Bramson [Che Moody].

Olivia Grayne, Bramson’s niece and companion [coolly played by, Kimberly Sands Galvez], is not fooled by his charming ways and is the only one to suspect his duplicity. Olivia, both repulsed and fascinated by Dan, refuses to succumb to his constant flattery even as their relationship grows with dangerous intensity. This complicated game of cat-and-mouse propels the play.”

But is Dan the real killer, or are we being tricked into thinking so? I attended a recent performance of this production, but I refuse to say. The author, Emlyn Williams, was a Welsh dramatist, autobiographer, and screenwriter, who authored many highly effective, often macabre plays. “Night Must Fall” received great acclaim from British audiences during its 1930’s debut and earned Williams much praise as an actor in the leading role.

As for this production, it has much to recommend it. High on that list is the convincing performance of Actor’s Equity member, Miss Moody, as Bramson. As she wends her way, by wheelchair, about the intimate, Victorian-flavored set of Mims Mattair, Moody brings an air of great experience and authority to the role. I had the feeling I was in the presence of a great lady of the theater.

Laura Chapman plays housekeeper, Mrs. Terrance, and keeps things lively as she ignites the stage with her saucy retorts and comic timing. (With no respect for Mrs. Bramson’s dubious handicap, she announces: “If you’re an invalid, then I’m the Prince of Wales!”) Meanwhile, the British tabloids have announced that a certain murderer is on the loose and happens to be fond of singing “Mighty Like a Rose.” And wouldn’t you know it — strange visitor, Dan, likes to sing it as well. Mr. Davis brings a great accent and rich voice to his mysterious role.

A standout performance comes from Carl Masterson as the alert Inspector Belsize. He would fit perfectly in any Sherlock Holmes or Masterpiece Theater offering, and does an excellent job here.

Elva Evans as Nurse Libby, and Rosalind Anne Blacoe as the maid, Dora, did nice work in supporting roles. The fine costume designs of Rebecca Greene Udden are at their best in the gaudy elegance of Mrs. Bramson. “Night Must Fall” is not a perfect evening of theater, because in my mind, the script is not flawless in its construction. There are some passages that are a bit slow-paced or farfetched. But overall, you will see some very fine acting, and have an adventure that takes you way beyond another night in front of the T.V.

(The Courier    7.26.00)

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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