This review of Theatre Time Productions' Night Watch: A Play Of Suspense In Two Acts by Lucille Fletcher at the Colonial Church of Bayside was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 4 (2014) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Night Watch: A Play Of Suspense In Two Acts
Theatre Time Productions
Colonial Church of Bayside (54-02 217th Street, Oakland Gardens, NY)
Night Watch: A Play Of Suspense In Two Acts was written by Lucille Fletcher, who also wrote Sorry, Wrong Number, one of the most celebrated plays in the history of American radio, which she adapted and expanded for the 1948 film noir classic of the same name. Night Watch appeared on Broadway in 1972 and was made into a movie in 1973 with Elizabeth Taylor in the lead role. The play is not your traditional murder mystery where you are presented with some dead bodies and need to figure out who the killer or killers are. Night Watch is more of a "who's doing what to whom and why mystery" with many twists and turns along the way. Is Elaine Wheeler, the rich heiress with insomnia who lost her first husband in a car accident where he was found with his 20-year-old mistress, simply losing her marbles on the downhill road to "crazyville" and treatment in a Swiss sanitarium or is this apparently unstable woman "crazy like a fox"?
The play is set in a fancy apartment on East 30th Street in the Kips Bay section of Manhattan in 1972. Elaine Wheeler is an heiress. Her husband, John Wheeler, works on Wall Street. They have a German maid named Helga and an intrusive gay neighbor, Curtis Appleby, who writes for the Kips Bay Tattler, the neighborhood newspaper. Staying with the Wheelers before heading out to work at the Mayo Clinic is Elaine's best friend Blanche Cooke, a nurse, who appears to be doing all she can to help Elaine get through what seems to be a particularly difficult time in her life although it is unclear what has been triggering the recent backslide in her mental condition. We learn that eight years ago, after personally coming upon the accident that caused the death of her husband and his mistress, she lost the child she was carrying, attempted to commit suicide and went into a deep depression. But two years later, she married John Wheeler and seemed to be getting on with her life. Now, six years later, she claims to have seen a murdered man in the window of an abandoned tenement on East 29th Street and then claims she saw a murdered woman in the tenement as well. The police investigate and find no evidence that any crime has been committed and so the mystery begins. Is Elaine seeing things or is Blanche, and perhaps her husband, singly or jointly, trying to drive her over the edge, confirm her deteriorating mental condition with the help of psychiatrist Dr. Tracy Lake, and cart her off to a clinic in Switzerland? If so, what are their motivations? Flowers, broaches, and wigs Blanche brings home to the Wheelers' home seem to remind Elaine of the trauma she previously went through. Perhaps her husband has been working with Sam Hoke, the Deli owner on East 29th Street, found trespassing in the tenement, to make his wife think she was seeing things that weren't there? This becomes all the more likely when we learn that a real estate holding company John Wheeler and his wife own, recently bought the very tenement where Elaine has been seeing dead people.
To say more would ruin the ending for you. So I will stop here but even after you see the play, there will still be some unresolved mysteries. What role, if any, did Sam Hoke (the Deli owner and face of the man Elaine claims to have seen murdered in the tenement window), and Curtis Appleby, the gay neighbor, play in the machinations? Did Blanche, who was familiar with the work of Dr. Tracy Lake, recommend her to John Wheeler? Did Helga "ask" for $500.00 from John Wheeler to go back to visit her mother in Germany because she thought she knew something that Mr. Wheeler wanted to keep secret? To what extent was John Wheeler in on the plans Blanche Cooke seemed to be cooking up and finally, what did Blanche see across the alley in the boarded up tenement that caused her to scream before any gun shots were heard? If you consider yourself an amateur sleuth, you will love this story.
Night Watch is another home run for Theatre Time Productions. There isn't a weak link in the entire cast. Everyone performed beautifully. Mary Lynch and Frank Freeman played Elaine and John Wheeler. Stephanie Lenna was Blanche Cooke. Cecilia Vaicels appeared born to play Helga, the German maid. Jim Haines was particularly impressive as Curtis Appleby. Joanne Engfer was Dr. Tracy Lake. Rene Bendana made a brief appearance as Sam Hoke, as did Paul Robilotto as Det. Vanelli, and Michael Zurik as Lt. Walker.
The play is being presented "in the round" and is expertly directed by Kevin C. Vincent. There were some glitches out of the sound booth that caused an underlying "ringing" sound during the first act but that problem was corrected during the second act. The cast joined the audience for a dessert buffet after the show but only decaf coffee and soda were offered so if you preferred tea or caffeinated coffee, you would have been out of luck.
I highly recommend you see Theatre Time Productions' Night Watch: A Play Of Suspense In Two Acts while you can. You will be thoroughly entertained.