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Live Staging
sparks Debate
over Serling's
Legacy
Seattle's
"Theater
Schmeater"
also stages
Twilight Zone
episodes

Critics Debate Serling's Work
Theatrical staging of Twilight Zone episodes sparks a debate over Rod Serling's literary legacy

Death's Head Revisited
Michael Schaldemose as the ex-nazi who
returns to Dachau to be met by camp prisoner
Michael Wener in Death's Head Revisited
Submitted For Your Approval:
Two vastly differing viewpoints

Each review reflects an attitude that the
reviewer brought to the performance. Both
writers believe that they are telling the truth. 
But how can both be right?

There are no easy answers; not here,
nor on the creaky floorboards of any
other stage...in the Twilight Zone.

Uncle Simon

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The Twilight Zone - with its small, surreal stories - has been transferred to a city stage to great effect.

The Way Off Broadway Group, founded in Vancouver in 1988, has acquired stage rights to four episodes in the classic Rod Serling TV series and is presenting them at the Station Street Arts Centre.

The show is directed by Michael Wener, who appears in three of the episodes and created the music - an eclectic mix of jazz and electronic elements - that runs through the piece.

The episodes are:

  • The Chaser. This is a bizarre tale of an aspiring lover who takes a potion that promises to attract his reluctant mate. Wener, as the lover ("All I want is Leila," he says with tortuous passion), gets off to a strong start in this little piece. June Pentyliuk is suitably outrageous as the the object of his pursuit.

    There is a lovely opening scene with Leila slunk in a stuffed chair, legs akimbo, indifferent to Roger's telephone pleas.
  • Uncle Simon. Michael Schaldemose plays "an ancient albatross with a dirty mouth" in the story of his twisted, 15-year relationship with niece Barbara, played by Rhonda Schultz. Both actors handle the rich language in this piece with skill.

    Schaldemose displays a Germanic intensity which he carries to other episodes; Schultz is similarly and appropriately dark and moody yet with an attractive poise.
  • Probe 7 Over and Out. At this point the show takes an even better turn. Peter Hanlon plays a space explorer about to be abandoned Injured and with dwindling supplies, an a planet 4 1/2 light years from the sun. As he talks by radio to his commander on his home planet - a mesmerizing conversation - he gets a unique perspective on his fate. Hanlon is excellent.
  • Death's Head Revisited, Wener leaves the strongest for the end - and the result is powerful. This piece examines the experience of a Nazi captain, played by Schaldemose, who returns to his former workplace, Dachau, to be confronted with a caretaker (Wener) he had put to death.

    The result is a moving scene that is neither belabored or overdone—a difficult act when dealing with such a sensitive issue.

Lighting, by Eduardo Meneses is intelligent, varied and intriguing throughout. There are mottled patches cast on a dark floor; an intense spotlight on a crumpled, writhing figure; light filtered through a shifting haze; and an eerie red for the Nazi confrontation.

For someone like myself, particularly interested in the visual aspects of theatre, this lighting was an added boon.

It's unfortunate that productions at this funky Main Street space don't attract more attention. On opening night the audience was distressingly small. This production deserves to be seen.

It continues to Nov. 16. Show time is 8:30 p.m.


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LLOYD DYKK
Sun Theatre Critic

The idea of taking episodes of Rod Serling's television series The Twilight Zone and staging them straight up would itself seem to have come out of the twilight zone. What brave thing will the Way Off Broadway group do next? Staged productions of Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best?

This small company produced The Twilight Zone at the recent Vancouver Fringe Festival and took it on the fringe circuit across the country, aggressively boasting that it was the first company to be granted the stage rights to these vintage Serling shows.

How much competition could there have been?

What could have been so appealing about putting TV—old TV at that—on the stage?

They don't treat the four episodes they chose in any way but literally and they don't send them up. It's like Elvis impersonation, except that Elvis is a legend worth impersonating. Why not write new material?

Why Serling? What a strange thing to commemorate: Rod Serling with his hack script-writer shaggy dog fantasies and his deadweight sermonizing disguised as the "macabre." It's not just that this stuff has dated. Most of it would have been terrible in 1162, let alone 1962.

The best thing you can say is that you don't get the commercials. Otherwise, verisimilitude is complete: the voice-overs, the murky lighting and the theme music. It's hard to say anything about the acting, because even some of this is authentic.

The four episodes have to do with: a man who meets a strange druggist who gives him a love potion that, of course, turns out to be a curse; a niece who has to observe a strange codicil in the will of her cruel scientist-uncle; a rocketeer who crash-lands on an alien planet to meet a futuristic Eve; and an ex-Nazi who returns to Dachau (a favorite Serling theme).

Michael Schaldemose is a good enough actor to make you almost overlook the material he's involved with. He just throws himself into it like a professional swimmer on a cross-channel job. June Pentyliuk and Rhonda Schultz aren't bad either. Peter Hanlon and Michael Wener (the director) … tsk, there's that pesky snow on the screen.