It's not very often that a production smacks you upside the head with the sudden realization that you aren't merely seeing a good play but, instead, are seeing a fantastic play. Tacoma Little Theatre's production of Lucille Fletcher's play Night Watch accomplishes just that. While it has been around for 40 years (with a 1973 film version starring Elizabeth Taylor), instead of feeling dated, Night Watch seems fresh and current. Tacoma Little Theatre could scarcely have chosen a more fitting play for the Halloween season. While it is not an overt nod to the ghoulish holiday, there is enough suspense and blood curdling screams to satisfy anyone looking to spook up a Friday or Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon.
This is director Randy Clark's third experience working with the script since the ‘80s when he played Mr. Appleby. His first experience directing Fletcher's play was with high school students in the ‘90s and "ever since, . . . wanted to direct it again with a good, age-appropriate cast and designers who could present it the way I have always envisioned it." He has succeeded in putting together an extremely talented cast and crew who turned a "great play" into a fabulous performance.
The technical crew created a modern and appealing set, which added to the timelessness of the script as well as create intrigue and interest. The lighting was especially noteworthy as it illuminated main character Elaine's (played by Nicole Lockett) feelings. Of course, even the most stunning set does nothing without a good cast, and Clark's actors were well chosen and handled their roles with skill.
Elaine Wheeler (Lockett) suffers from insomnia and appears to be close to becoming unhinged as one suspicious event after another takes place. Lockett's range of emotions she employs to bring Elaine to life is impressive, not only the range but also Lockett's ability to keep her character from being melodramatic. Elaine's husband, John Wheeler (Gabriel McClelland), grows increasingly frustrated at his wife's behavior and tries to convince Elaine of her need to seek treatment. Elaine's friend, Blanche (Jenifer Rifenbery) has been staying with the Wheelers and attempts to assist Elaine but her help is overshadowed by one strangely uncaring act after another.
There is much suspense and many questions that are raised by the end of Act I. While the remainder of the roles serve to reveal the secrets and story, the actors succeed in making the characters more than just vehicles for the plot to be delivered. Elaine begins to reveal some of her secrets at the beginning of Act II but no one is quite prepared for the twist that happens during the climax of the play.
Fletcher's script allows the audience to believe they are discovering the mystery and unraveling the suspense but then surprises them with a clever ending. The plot twist is so clever the entire play is transformed from a good play into the great play that Clark dreamed of directing.
[Tacoma Little Theatre, Night Watch, through Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, $15-$25, 210 N. I St.,TAcoma, 253.272.2281]