Thursday, February 18, 2016

I'LL BE BACK BEFORE MIDNIGHT • Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog’s latest production, a two-act play written in 1979 by Peter Colley, has a familiar assortment of promising, hair-raising set-ups. The Sanderson couple, Greg and Jan (Jeff Kargus and Angela Bubash), have retreated to the country so Jan can get a breather from the world after a recent breakdown. Greg seems attentive enough to his wife, who is a little unnerved by the creepiness of the run-down farmhouse where they’ll be staying. A neighboring farmer, George (Mark Abels), full of folksy charm, hearty chuckles, and a supply of ominous stories about vengeful ghosts who supposedly plague the house, comes by every now and then for a spot of whiskey and conversation, but his stories don’t do anything for Jan’s state of mind. To top things off, Jan’s unease is heightened by an imminent visit from Greg’s sister Laura (Sarajane Alverson). Laura shares a tight bond with her brother, but she and Jan have never gotten along.

Greg Sanderson (Jeff Kargus),
Laura Sanderson (Sarajane Alverson)
and Jan Sanderson (Angela Bubash).
Photo credit: John Lamb
The thing is, amidst the heavily telegraphed plot and rising tensions laid out, Colley’s play doesn’t quite pay off satisfyingly. With all of the trappings of a thriller, and some dashes of comedic elements thrown in, the overall tone seems unbalanced and never entirely settles in -- like the beats between comedy and thriller are a little off.

Still, where the script falters, the performances are mostly good. Bubash is fittingly fragile as the nerve-brittled Jan, and Kargus, as her dutiful husband, is amiable, if not a tad exaggerated in his performance on occasion. Alverson doesn’t hide the contempt for her sister-in-law’s weakness, and Abels befits his character's homespun, good ole country boy allure. The creative contributions live up to the task, with Rob Lippert’s scenic design realizing the perfect, spooky old farmhouse, Tyler Duenow’s aptly dark lighting design, along with solid sound design.

Laura Sanderson (Sarajane Alverson),
Greg Sanderson (Jeff Kargus) and George Willowby (Mark Abels).
Photo credit: John Lamb
There are nevertheless chills to be had and mysteries to be uncovered in Colley’s play, and Stray Dog’s troops rally to make the most of a play that is, while enjoyable, a bit patchy.


I’LL BE BACK BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Written by Peter Colley
Directed by Justin Been
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through February 20 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Saturday, February 20 at 2pm

Jan Sanderson (Angela Bubash),
Laura Sanderson (Sarajane Alverson)
and Greg Sanderson (Jeff Kargus).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Cast
Jan Sanderson: Angela Bubash
Greg Sanderson: Jeff Kargus
Laura Sanderson: Sarajane Alverson
George Willowby: Mark Abels

Creative
Artistic Director: Gary F. Bell
Lighting Designer: Tyler Duenow
Costume Designer: Eileen Engel
Production Manager: Jay V. Hall
Scenic Designer: Rob Lippert
Stage Manager: Kevin O’Brien

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