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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Suffer the Long Night
review continues below
A thinly disguised parody of the Humphrey Bogart thriller The Petrified Forest, in which an escaped convict holds an assortment of characters hostage in a roadside diner, Suffer has two escaped convicts holed up in a house in Ohio while they wait for the older one's girlfriend to come and rescue them. The house belongs to the Burling family and, according to Chops, the older convict (played by Jeffrey Markle). It's really "fancy," reflecting the upscale status of the owners, which couldn't be further from the truth: the house is as tacky as a house can be, with hardly any furniture and doors that stick so effectively that the whole play stops dead while people struggle to open them.
It's Christmas Eve, 1949, and the Burling family is just getting ready to leave for church where daughter Rosie (a buxom Kipleigh Brown, outlandishly miscast as a 10-year-old) is going to be playing an angel. The other daughter, Mary, a red-nosed Stephanie Manglaras, has a debilitating cold and, between sneezes, talks without using her nose. The mother, Vera, who introduces herself before the play begins as Meredith Lipschitz-Sinclair, the leader of "this group of thespians who are about to present the play you are about to see," is played by a hilariously earnest Pam Levin, who appears to be channeling Tallulah Bankhead. And the father of this typical American family, Bob Burling, is played by Jon Van Middlesworth, who also plays his own mother, Grandmother Burling.
The younger of the two convicts, Louie Defazio, is played by a handsome, rigid Greg Glienna, who keeps breaking the fourth wall, smiling and waving discreetly at the audience. He also has a cell phone long before they were invented, and Mary has no watch, even though she keeps checking her bare wrist and mumbling things like, "Oh my goodness, it's getting late . . ."
There's also a running gag about the fact that it's supposed to be snowing, so that every time the front door opens, someone offstage tosses handfuls of white pillow feathers around. And another gag with a telephone that keeps ringing even after it's been answered. And finally, there is Mandi Smith, the "fake" stage manager, who keeps rushing back and forth supplying props that aren't where they were supposed to be. Smith also plays Mira, Chops' girlfriend. Obviously a last-minute substitute in the play within a play for the actress who was supposed to play Mira, Smith comes onstage carrying a huge notebook, from which she reads Mira's lines.
When props are missing, the actors improvise: R.S. Bailey, playing the detective hot on Chops and Louie's trail, and his sidekick Beck (Eric Porzadek) talk into their fists when communicating over the police radio. When lines are forgotten, the players turn to each other for prompts. When Chops' gun isn't available, he points his finger and says "Pow! I shot you!"
Suffer the Long Night is produced by Brandon Alexander, who also plays Dirk, Mary's gum-chewing football player boyfriend. Co-producer Greg Glienna, who plays Louie, also co-wrote the play (with Mary Ruth Clarke) and directs it.
In keeping with the farcical nature of the play, there are two sets of cast biographies, one real (maybe) and the other with silly bios and fake names, plus a full-page addendum of last-minute cast changes, since most of the players seem to have come down with the flu. So if I've identified the wrong people in this review, I accept no responsibility for it. Go see the play and figure it out for yourself. It's a fun play and well worth the confusion!