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Writing for CurtainUp NYC Weather
|A CurtainUp Review
Night Must Fall
By Elyse Sommer
Director John Tillinger, who despite some wonderful credits is also guilty of the National Actors Theater revival of Three Men On a Horse, does his utmost to give us a few chills and thrills. The clap of thunder and lightning that gets things underway does jolt us out of our seats and the glimpse of a nude man outside the country house sitting room promises more titillation to come. Alas, the fact that the nude is a stand-in for Matthew Broderick sets the tone for the ersatz thrills of this play. The minute the storm ends and the curtain rises on the brightly lit parlor suspense takes a sharp turn towards the obvious. The novelty of seeing a play with a curtain descending between scenes is fun but soon proves insufficient to the underwhelming events every time the curtain rises. There are moments when you hope that maybe Mr. Tillinger is going to send up the genre and give us an Irma Vep -like spoof (link). Noo such luck! Night Must Fall insistently plods through the original scenario.
Matthew Broderick who plays the baby-faced psychopath Danny gives the adjective unconvincing new meaning. He seems to be acting right to his final almost ridiculous crackup. He oozes neither charm or evil as his movie counterpart Robert Montgomery did. This makes it almost impossible for the usually excellent J. Smith Cameron to give credibility to the antipathy-attraction her character (Olivia the niece of the tyrannical Mrs. Bramson) feels for Danny. As for the psychological dominatrix of this murder most foul revival, Judy Parfitt is excellent as the hypochondriac who falls prey to Danny's charm and murderous intent. However, it's not the Broadway debut one would wish for the memorable Mildred of that jewel of BBC serials, The Jewel In The Crown.
The rest of the supporting cast -- especially Patricia Kilgarriff as the uppity housekeeper and Michael Countryman as Hubert Laurie, Olivia's rejected suitor -- wrench the best performances possible from their roles.
A footnote about the filmed version of this play. The 1937 adaptation starring Robert Montgomery is a golden oldie classic of psychological suspense and still available in video stores. When director Karl Reisz and co-producer and star Albert Finney attempted a remake in 1964, the play's age and obviousness was too apparent to support a repeat of the first film's success. The National Actors Theater should have been guided by that remake's history.
Not About Nightingales
The Mystery of Irma Vep
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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