Usually when I attend a play at the Vortex, I have to brace myself for some of the over-the-top avant-garde presentations that are commonplace there. Every once in a while I come across a production, often one produced by a company other than the Vortex Rep, that knocks my socks off! Different Stages has done that again with their production of Night Must Fall by Emlyn Williams. Norman Blumensaadt and Different Stages have created a night of pure anticipation. The waiting and knowing that there is a killer among the cast is quite intense. Along with that intensity is the dead-on acting provided by the more than talented cast. Blumensaadt has crafted a fantastic show that has continued to build upon itself.
Speaking of acting, Ben McLemore deftly portrays Dan, the psychotic and extremely intelligent street boy who weasels his way into the life of Mrs. Bramson. McLemore shows his years of training with a fine attention to the details that make your blood curdle when the other characters’ backs are turned. Directing the cast of characters with a strong arm is the beautiful and talented Mary Kennelly. Kennelly approaches the stern, angry, and yet vulnerable Mrs. Bramson with skills that make most other actors jealous. Kennelly is a force to be reckoned with and proves it as she wheels the show to its final moments as she momentarily allows the audience to see through her strength to the little girl hiding underneath.
This is an incredible ensemble cast. Most memorable is Paula Ruth Gilbert as the cook, Mrs. Terrence, whose accent is spot-on. Her touches of Cockney humor provide relief while cutting as sharply as a knife. Bethany Harbaugh and Laura Artesi also give praiseworthy performances, giving the cast much to work with.
The aspects of the show that really help to make the show what it is would be the scenic design by Ann Marie Gordon, whose open and suggestive set manages to maintain the period and the mood. Gordon is assisted by the successful lighting design of Patrick Anthony.
The real applause goes to Norman Blumensaadt who has crafted a thoughtful and well-rounded cast, show, and in the end a superb production. Night Must Fall runs through the July 13 at the Vortex Theatre on Manor Road. Get your tickets before this show closes. A rare 5 out of 5 stars is given for the talented cast and the thoughtful staging. A sure fit for a B. Iden Payne or Critics Circle Nomination.