The author of mystery thrillers like “Sorry Wrong Number” and “Night Watch,” Louise Fletcher knew just how to raise goosebumps in her audiences. Her play NIGHT WATCH was first produced in 1972, receiving praise from the New York Times before becoming a 1973 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Harvey, reunited for the first time since their 1960 collaboration on the popular motion picture, “Butterfield 8.” Clearly, Fletcher was doing something right so many years ago. However, NIGHT WATCH faded from public view for decades, only to be resurrected by the Kentwood Players, doing a bang-up job of integrating thrills and chills for 2022 audiences.
NIGHT WATCH is set in the early 1960s at the Wheelers’ elegant New York townhouse. Elaine Wheeler (Courtney Shaffer) suffered a terrible trauma when her first husband died in a fatal auto accident – in the arms of his very young and pretty girlfriend. In fact, Elaine has never been the same. Now, married to her second husband John Wheeler (Benjamin Billand), she is still having flashbacks about that betrayal, as well as relentless insomnia which makes a full night’s sleep impossible.
On one of her lonely night time vigils through her dark house in the middle of a slashing thunderstorm, she is certain that she sees a man’s dead body covered in blood in the house across the way. But, despite contacting the police, especially Officer Vanelli (Sean Spencer) and Lt. Walker (Michael Serrato Sanchez), she finds that no one believes her tale. In fact, as she continues to contact the police on an almost daily basis, everyone is ready to write off her observations as nuts, the result of her burgeoning mental illness. Even the serious efforts of best friend Blanche Cooke (Jennifer Moody), who just happens to be a nurse and is currently a guest in her home, fail to offer a solution. Little by little, things go downhill and Elaine’s delusions escalate – with the number of her “victims’ growing to two. Finally, Elaine’s husband calls in psychiatrist Dr. Tracey Lake (Nina Rose Carlin), who recommends treatment at a sanitarium in Switzerland. Elaine doesn’t seem to be getting better, and Elaine and her husband decide that it might be best for her to get further treatment in Switzerland. What happens next? You’ll have to see the play to find out.
NIGHT WATCH twists and turns, an enigma within a conundrum; and easily becomes the noir mystery-thriller it promises from the get-go. What is going on anyway in the eerie Wheeler household? Skillfully helmed by director Brandon Ferruccio, NIGHT WATCH holds the audience’s attention from the first moment. This is a classic whodunit with a twist or two of its own. The cast seems to be having fun with the melodramatic plot as it wends its way to conclusion. NIGHT WATCH is entertaining, even offering a few tongue-in-cheek chuckles here and there.
Kudos to set designers Brandon Ferruccio and George Kondreck, who do a terrific job of keeping the nooks and crannies in shadows in the spooky Wheeler home. The entire production team has a seamless plan to make Manse Wheeler sinister, spine-chilling, and unnerving – including Michael Thorpe’s lighting, Kim Peterson’s and Brandon Ferruccio’s costumes, Susan Stangl’s sound, and Jon Sparks’ wigs. It all comes together in the end, just as a show of this genre is supposed to.
NIGHT WATCH runs through October 8, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Friday, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Kentwood Players perform in the Westchester Playhouse, located at 8301 Hindry Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90045. Tickets are $22 ($2 discount for seniors and student, with group rates available). For information and reservations, call 310-645-5156 or go bo*******@Ke*************.org">online.
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