Theatre production features feel of classic film noir
PLAINVIEW – In the classic style of film noir, the next production in Wayland Baptist University theatre's season features a thrilling mystery that puts the audience literally in the middle of the action.
Earth and Sky, a thriller by Douglas Post, will open Nov. 11 in the Harral Studio Theatre at 8 p.m., with additional performances on Nov. 12, 17, 18 and 19. Dr. Marti Runnels, professor and director of theatre at Wayland, will direct the production featuring a blend of theatre veterans and program newcomers. The show, says Runnels, is unique for several reasons.
"My generation grew up watching classic film noir, but it continues to survive in every decade," he said. "We tend to think about the black and white films with the back-and-forth, gritty dialogue, where plots surround a world of shadows and mystery.
"What makes this different is that it's not a film, of course, or even a takeoff or a spoof of film noir but a stage version of the same thing," he said.
Runnels said the play involves the audience in the mystery because watch the events unfold and try to work out the mystery as they go. The play features two stories interwoven, a romance and a murder mystery, and neither are done chronologically, Runnels said. The story involves the investigation of the murder of a man accused of horrible crimes, both by the police and by a woman who is determined to prove his innocence while solving the murder. Runnels calls the play a moral piece, with the issue of good versus evil predominant.
Besides the story itself, Runnels said Earth and Sky will intrigue audiences because of the staging format. The set for the play is designed in the round, meaning the audience seating will be on all sides of the studio theatre, called the "Black Box" by Waylandites.
"(Doing the play in the round) brings the audience even closer - they literally could reach out and touch the actors at times," Runnels said. "They'll have a real sense of being part of the action. We want them to feel like they're part of the play."
The lighting will reflect film noir trends -- dim lights and shadows, which Runnels says "leaves more to the imagination."
But performing a play in the round brings its own challenges. For one, the actors never get a break. There are no offstage exits, and the actors are always in the visibility of some audience members. For directors like Runnels, the setting provides the challenge of keeping the actors moving so their backs are not turned to the same area and the action moves around the space.
Leading roles in the play, Sara McKeon and David Ames, are filled by Mary Feril, a junior theatre major who has been in several productions, and newcomer Thomas Hoffman. Other theatre veterans on the cast list include Grant Jasper, playing Detective Al Kersnowski, Tim Fisher as Detective H.E. Weber, Kelley Dunn as Joyce Lazlo, Doug Warren as Carl Eisenstadt, Craig Huckeby as Julius Gatz and Holly Gwyn as Marie DeFaria. Another WBU stage newcomer, Feliciano Morales, plays Billy Hart.
Chris Moore, technical theatre director, designed the set. Crew members include Hannah Stewart, Luis Lujan, Shawn Kelley, Catherine Donald, Chris Bevis, Hayley Cox, Lisa Angel, Jennifer Rutherford.
Tickets to WBU theatre productions are $8 for adults and $4 for students. For reservations, call the box office at 291-1087.