Voices In The Dark

Theatre Review by Fergus McGillicuddy

New York - August 12, 1999

If you've already seen Voices In The Dark, opening tonight at the Longacre Theatre, in previews, you'll understand just what I mean when I say John Pielmeier's new thriller gets the Fall Broadway season off to a sizzling start. More specific than that I will not be. Along with the Stage Manager's announcements before the house lights are lowered - "please unwrap your candy now and turn off your cell phone" - comes the alarming statement that if you reveal the ending of the play, they will be forced to kill you. I believe them. So will you.

Unfortunately, not being allowed to reveal the ending also means that a great deal of what comes before it cannot be related. John Pielmeier has crafted an intelligent, masterfully plotted, and superbly engrossing tale of obsession, psychological tension, and consequences. (Worthy of note is the surprising fact that, while blood is never actually seen on the stage at any point during the evening, you leave the theatre convinced that the stage has been awash in it.) To discuss any detail of the play would be a disservice to future audiences. However, I will say that, no matter how clever you are, you will not correctly guess the identity of the Mystery Caller until it is revealed in the last 20 minutes. And that is what a good mystery thriller is all about.

The only annoying bit in this play, and this is a minor complaint, is the serious repercussions of childhood sexual abuse are dealt with too glibly, too superficially to justify the way it is employed in the plot.

Christopher Ashley's direction is sharp, quick, and telling. Every significant plot point is given just the right emphasis, every twist its due. Suspense is maintained throughout all the brief scenes in the first act, with each new scene heightening the pervasive sense of foreboding. The second act seems to fly by in but moments, which is a blessing, for you will discover at its end you have been uncomfortably perched on the edge of your seat for almost an hour.

To discuss individual performances also runs the risk of giving too much away. Suffice to say that among the uniformly fine cast, John Ahlin, Peter Bartlett, Lenny Blackburn, Zach Grenier, and Raphael Sbarge have created complete and appropriate characters, each with his own odd little quirks.

The evening, of course, belongs to Judith Ivey who triumphs as the popular radio therapist with problems of her own. Because she is never absent from the stage for more than a few moments, we see the events of the play as they unfold from her viewpoint. The empathy we feel for her character Lil, this intelligent and capable woman, as she reels from surprise to shock to terror, barely managing to maintain control of her own life, is a significantly rewarding part of the evening.

Voices In The Dark reminds us just how fun and entertaining a good thriller can be. So what if you have a few nightmares, jump every time the phone rings for the next couple of weeks, and are never able to look a hot tub in the face again? It's worth it.

Voices In The Dark Written by John Pielmeier. Directed by Christopher Ashley. Scenic Design by David Gallo and Lauren Helpern. Costume Design by David C. Woolard. Lighting Design by Donald Holder. Sound Design by T. Richard Fitzgerald. Original Music by Robert Waldman. Fight Staging by B. H. Barry. Special Effects by Gregory Meeh. Staring Judith Ivey, with John Ahlin, Peter Bartlett, Lenny Blackburn, Nicole Fonarow, Zach Grenier, Raphael Sbarge, Tom Stechschulte

Theatre Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street New York, NY 10036 (between Broadway & 8th Avenue)

Current Schedule Monday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday & Saturday at 2 PM Schedule Beginning September 6 Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday & Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM

Running Time 2 hours, including one intermission.

Audience This show is inappropriate for children 12 and under.

Ticket Prices $60, $55 & $35

Tickets In Person Box Office Hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday CLOSED - (Beginning September 9, Sunday Noon to 6 PM)

Tickets On Line http://www.telecharge.com/

Tickets by Phone Tele-charge (212) 239-6200, or outside the NY metro area (800) 545-2559, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Tickets by Snail Mail Voices in the Dark, PO Box 998 Times Square Station New York, NY 10108-0998

Tickets by e-mail Tickets@telecharge.com

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