THEATRE REVIEW: The Twilight Zone 

Believe It — or Not: Twilight Zone isn't fully committed

The Twilight Zone
April 9-11,17-18, 8 p.m.
April 12, 5 p.m.
$20-$25
Village Playhouse
730 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant
(843) 856-1579
www.villageplayhouse.com

Last year, the Village Playhouse brought us a delightful Halloween treat: Keely Enright's stage version of Orson Welles' radio drama The War of the Worlds. Both as a reenactment of the original broadcast and as an entertaining peek at how these radio dramas were created, War of the Worlds succeeded.

Now Playhouse leads us on another nostalgic tour, this time into The Twilight Zone. But this new journey, with one notable exception, is not quite as satisfying.

The Twilight Zone presents a trio of one-act dramas drawn from the first three seasons of the ground-breaking TV series. The first is a light-hearted affair entitled "A World of His Own."

As the piece opens, a man and woman enjoy the tranquil domesticity of their cocktail hour. Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling (Josh Wilhoit), steps in to introduce the couple: "The home of Mr. Gregory West, one of America's most noted playwrights. Mr. Gregory West: shy, quiet, and at the moment, very happy. Mary: warm, affectionate." With a nudge and a wink, Serling adds, "And the final ingredient: Mrs. Gregory West."

Through the window, Victoria West (Stacey Rabon) has spied her husband's martini interlude with Mary. Mr. West (David Reinwald) has some 'splaining to do — particularly since, in mere seconds, his blonde companion has vanished.

Reinwald's West is affable and guileless. In a contest of wills with his wife, he's clearly overmatched by Rabon's Victoria West, whose classy allure and willful determination will get to the bottom of this.

In contrast, Mary's (Susan Kattwinkel) cocktail mixing blonde is a demure, inoffensive Stepford wife. The explanation that Victoria finally draws from her husband leaves her convinced only that he's lost his marbles. It's a surreal little romance and great fun to watch.

In "Nick of Time," the third of these tales, Dan (Ryan Ahlert) and Patricia (Angela White), are a honeymooning couple temporarily marooned in a small Ohio diner waiting for their car to be repaired. Dan, a superstitious guy by nature, gets mired in the mystery of the machine on the diner table. For one penny a question, the Mystic Seer will offer them a look into their future. It quickly gets out of hand. While Ahlert and White give solid performances, the pace overall is slightly off.

Tucked in between these two dramas, "Nothing in the Dark" is the gem of the evening. Wanda Dunn (Samille Basier) is an old woman who refuses to venture outside her squalid quarters in a condemned building. She's trapped by fear of Mr. Death, who, she's convinced, stalks her, always in a new guise. When a young police officer is shot outside her door, she consents to let the wounded man in and try to help.

"Nothing in the Dark" takes place on the smallest of the three Twilight Zone sets. Barely more than walls, a chair, and a wrought-iron bed, the stage environment is claustrophobic — perfect for the drama unfolding within it. Wanda's ordeal is harrowing, and Basier is utterly convincing. You can't tear your eyes away.

In "Nothing in the Dark," all the elements that made the television series compelling are brought to bear, and as a result, this vignette highlights some shortcomings of the other two.

The original Twilight Zone teleplays, as they were called then, ran about 25 minutes. By today's blink-and-you-missed-it standards of narrative pacing, these tales strode along at horse-and-buggy speed. What sold these surreal excursions was not briskness but a willingness to render the implausible as a separate order of reality, complete and consistent within itself. Samille Basier achieves this with her performance.

In the end, believing the unbelievable begins with the actors themselves.

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