The final three performances of Lucille Fletcher’s “Night Watch” at Tacoma Little Theatre are tonight, Saturday and Sunday. This taut and suspenseful play is an edge-of-the-seat fright in the Alfred Hitchcock style.
The play is set in an upscale Manhattan apartment facing an abandoned building that can be seen through the window.
Elaine (Nichole Locket) is a troubled woman haunted by memories of a not-too-distant tragic past and bedeviled by insomnia. Unable to sleep, she paces the floor and smokes cigarettes in the early morning hours when she catches a brief and horrifying glimpse of a murdered man’s body sitting by a window in the abandoned building.
Her husband, John (Gabriel McClellend), tries to comfort her but instead upsets her because he does not believe she really saw a body. Her best friend, Blanche (Jenifer Rifenbery), does not believe her either, and neither do the police who investigate the reported murder at Elaine’s insistence.
The only person who seems to believe her, but with reservations, is her eccentric neighbor Appleby (Joseph Grant), who has a way of sticking his nose in other people’s business. Appleby thinks maybe it was a fake murder staged to scare Elaine and run her out of the apartment.
Then she sees another body, this time a woman. And images from her past start mysteriously appearing. Is she losing her mind and hallucinating these things? Is someone purposely trying to drive her crazy or make her think she’s crazy? Or did she truly see what she claims to have seen and, if so, why won’t anyone believe her? These questions multiply and build to a suspenseful crescendo; the play offers a satisfying twist at the end.
There are secondary characters that have little to do with the story other than to add color, such as a policeman (Charles Reccardo) who is a quiet-spoken art lover. He is played well and understated by Reccardo, but his small role does nothing to advance the plot; the roles of the policemen could have been rolled into one. The scruffy Lieutenant Walker (John Pfaffe) nails a stereotypical but entertaining cop who has had it with hysterical calls from women like Elaine.
Also unnecessary is the German maid, Helga (Ziggy Devlan), who is equally stereotypical but adds a little comic relief despite stiff acting and a terrible wig.
I have mixed feelings about McClellend’s portrayal of the husband. His acting is fine, but the character is one-dimensional. When he gets mad and shouts at Elaine, which happens a lot, his anger doesn’t seem real.
Locket plays the nervous and disturbed Elaine nicely. With her many twitches and quirks and convincing portrayal of a terrified woman, she makes the audience feel for her and root for her. You want her to not be as crazy as she seems as the plot progresses.
Rifenbery plays the self-contained and supposedly compassionate Blanche with restraint and dignity. Grant is likeable and highly entertaining as Appleby. His flamboyancy is funny without being offensive.
Set designer Burton Yuen’s 1970s apartment is spot-on: a checkerboard floor rendered in odd perspective; a back wall made of a scrim broken into squares in imitation of a Mondrian painting; modern art on the walls, including a nice copy of a Modigliani line drawing; and a little Giacometti-style statuette on a table and a Calder mobile hanging from the ceiling. The wall behind the scrim is lighted with a brilliant succession of colors (courtesy of resident lighting designer Niclas R. Olson). ‘Night Watch’
When: 7:30 tonight and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma
Information: 253-272-2281, tacomalittletheatre.com. firstname.lastname@example.org Check Alec’s blog at alecclayton.blogspot.com later this month for reviews of “Nuncrackers” at Capital Playhouse and other area theatrical performances.