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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Theater Schmeater Unlocks the Door to
The Twilight Zone at ACT Theatre

Twilight Zone
Chris MacDonald and Buddy Mahoney
For years, at least 15 or so by my count, Theater Schmeater has been honoring the memory of one of the most enduring television series of TV's golden age, Rod Serling's late 50's/early 60's fantasy anthology "The Twilight Zone." In most cases, three episodes are presented in one evening, complete with the original Serling opening intros and variations of musical theme. The latest version is being presented in the Bullitt Cabaret space at ACT Theatre, a roomier venue than the Schmee's tiny show space a few blocks up on Capitol Hill. Only one of the three scripts re-enacted are by Serling, but all representative of the series and its themes and, as the series, some of the actors appear in more than one "episode."

Charles Beaumont's episode, "The Howling Man," considered one of the series' best efforts, gets the the evening off to an ominous if slow paced start, as it tells the story of a traveler lost in the wilds in Europe who finds what may or may not be the Devil himself, being held prisoner by a brotherhood of monks in a creepy old monastery. Chris MacDonald as the traveler David Ellington, John Q. Smith as Brother Jerome, and Matt Fulbright as the Howling man do credible work, but I have always thought this particular episode was overrated.

The less well-known Serling-written "The Jeopardy Room" picks up the pace of the production, as it tells of a man in a communist-controlled country waiting for his foes who plan to assassinate him. In a typical Serling twist, though, the tables are turned on the would be assassins. Chris MacDonald strongly encores here as the target, and Buddy Mahoney is deliciously cold and calculating as the Venal Commissar.

The best of the trio comes last with George Clayton Johnson's "A Penny For Your Thoughts" in which the toss of a coin landing on its edge gives a nebbish bank clerk the power to read minds for a day, and ultimately wins him the affections of a shy female co-worker. Daniel Christensen catches the required lovable nerd qualities of protagonist Hector Poole, Heather Gautschi embodies a pre-women's lib type of spunky All-American girl as romantic interest Miss Turner, and Buddy Mahoney shows his versatility, here playing an aged, meek office employee who may be planning to rob the bank and take off for South America.

The richest performance, though admittedly honed by years of playing him, is director Tim Moore's uncanny and precise impersonation of Rod Serling himself. Without such a dead-on reading, especially of the sonorous voice Serling brought to the "Twilight Zone" openings and closings, such reenactments would be useless.

The Twilight Zone: Live! - 2012 runs through April 28 at ACT Theatre in the Bullitt Cabaret, 700 Union Street, Downtown Seattle. For more info go to www.acttheatre.org or call the ACT box-office at 206-292-7676.



- David Edward Hughes



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