Thoughts & Musings

When Truth Crashes A Party

Skeletons come out of the closet when three not-so-happy couples gather for an evening in 2nd Story Theatre’s ‘Dangerous Corner’

by Dave Christner, Newport Mercury
  • 1st October 20151/10/15
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English playwright and novelist J.B. Priestley might very well have been contemplating the metaphysical ideas of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity when he penned his first play with an underlying theme of time travel. Only time will tell.

What we do know, however, is that in Priestley’s world truth is a troubling thing but with a little bit of luck perhaps truth’s hard edge can be mitigated with time. At least that’s a message in 2nd Story Theatre’s spirited production of Priestley’s multifaceted thriller, “Dangerous Corner,” now running in Warren.

Set designer Trevor Elliott’s rendition of the drawing room of an English country house is exquisite in every detail. The bookshelves and bar are sufficiently stocked with nothing but the best books and booze. A black and white color scheme accentuated with muted grays serves as a visual metaphor of the duplicity of the manor’s inhabitants, not to mention the nebulous area that lies between absolute truth and an outright lie.

Ron Cesario’s glorious costumes blend magnificently with Elliott’s set to create the perfect milieu for three “happy” couples and a visiting novelist who spend an evening together, divulging secrets that might very well destroy the lovely lies they are living. The gentlemen are mirror images of one another, all outfitted to the nines in black tuxedos; but the women are defiantly different, each adorned in a colorful evening gown and jewels fit for a queen.

The play starts out innocently enough at a dinner party when Olwen Peel (Tanya Anderson) makes an offhand remark about a decorative silver cigarette box. Olwen is questioned by Freda Caplan (Tania Montenegro), wife of Robert Caplan (Wayne Kneeland), head of the publishing firm where Peel works about the box. Robert’s brother, Jeremy, the original recipient of the box recently killed himself, and Freda knows Olwen couldn’t have seen the box before because she gave it to him shortly before his death, unless, of course, Olwen saw Jeremy without her knowledge. Since Freda was in love with Jeremy, she is shaken by Olwen’s familiarity with the silver box.

Robert’s dogmatic insistence on getting to the bottom of the matter leads to all manner of head and heart aches for all concerned as one secret after another is revealed about the dark underbelly of the Caplan family and its publishing empire.

Gordon Whitehouse (Nicholas Thibeault), a partner in the firm and Freda’s brother and his wife Betty (Lian-Marie Munro) are guests for the evening along with Miguel Alonzo (Luis Astudillo), who also works at the firm and novelist Maude Mockridge (Paula Faber), one of the firm’s writers. The cozy cluster has more skeletons in the closet than Walmart the week before Halloween.

With 2nd Story Artistic Director Ed Shea at the helm and such a cadre of 2nd Story’s gifted regulars on the boards, one truth is certain: You’re sure to get a thrilling ride. And you do! To a man and woman, the performances are exquisite. Literary barbs and metaphorical arrows fly about like drones, hitting their targets with deadly precision, as the family veneer of respectability and camaraderie is fully exposed in truth’s unforgiving light. What a pleasure it is to witness such an intelligent play so intelligently and flawlessly performed.

If you’re the kind of person who yearns for the past, then this is an enjoyable play for you. Not only are you taken back to a time before the second war to end all wars but to a time when class was way more important than substance, a time when meaningless drivel was delivered face to face instead of through an iPhone interface with all the attendant consequences. But beware; this play will force you to think before you blink, to ponder possible outcomes before you lose yourself in the harsh reality of veracity. The truth is: 2nd Story’s production of “Dangerous Corner” is metaphysical mystery theater at its dead-level best; it is as engaging and entertaining as it is demanding.

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