Caution: you are about to enter The Twilight Zone.
For the past 24 years Theater Schmeater has been inviting guests into that fifth dimension, between light and shadow, for several timeless episodes of The Twilight Zone. This year they bring us The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine, Five Characters in Search of an Exit, The After Hours, and The Midnight Sun. These four eerie episodes force the audience to face questions and fears that have haunted man for years.
The first episode the cast performed, The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine, depicted an aging Hollywood star, Barbara Jean, whose glory days had passed long ago. Barbara Jean, played by Elisabeth A. Ballstadt, lives out her days in a dark room, re-watching her own movies as she desperately clings to her youth and the 1930s. A sepia tone was cast across the stage throughout the entirety of this episode. The orangey colors were warm and dreamy, drawing the audience into the comfort Barbara Jean’s nostalgic haze. However, the audience is awoken from this dreamy state when Ballstadt delivers a frightening performance of a woman who has completely lost touch with her reality. Ballstadt is convincingly disturbed when she stands directly in front of the audience, madly laughing and talking to the picture on her screen. The remainder of the play is just as alluring. The audience is drawn into each character’s world and faces the same terrors that he or she is confronting. In Barbara Jean’s case, the audience must also ponder what parts of ourselves we lose when we age.
Other great performances include that of Madhu T Rao who plays Rod Serling, the series creator and narrator. Serling and his legendary voice provide a great challenge for anyone who wants to take on his role as The Twilight Zone narrator. Rao’s background as a professor at Seattle University definitely lent itself to his role. His authoritative presence on the stage and eloquent voice was that of a seasoned lecturer and he perfectly captured Serling’s philosophical and provocative nature. Unlike the TV series, where Serling is separated from the characters and plot he narrates, Rao interacts with the set and its props which emphasized his sort of divine presence in this new dimension. Rao was excellent as narrator and voice of reason, always appearing on stage after a disturbing twist ending to remind the audience that these incidents only happen in the Twilight Zone.
The After Hours was the show’s creepy highlight. The episode follows Marsha, played by Alysha Curry, who stumbles upon the mysterious ninth floor of a department store. When she returns to the main floor, she discovers that the ninth floor is nonexistent. She also begins to notice just how many mannequins are staged throughout the store. Curry is charming and innocent when she finds herself in trouble, bringing some humor to the production. The background music is that of light sounds of bustling shoppers and elevator-type music. Theater Schmeater perfectly captures the eerie yet dreamy factor of a scene through its sound effects. This episode alone is worth a visit to Theater Schmeater.
After 24 years’ worth of Twilight Zone episodes, Theater Schmeater has mastered their production. The performance does justice to the nostalgia one feels when watching the original, black-and-white, series through the dark, hazy ambiance the theater creates in each episode. The theme song is present and the twist endings are shocking. I urge everyone to take part in Theater Schmeater’s annual trip into the fifth dimension.
The Twilight Zone: Live!, Theater Schmeater, 2125 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, November 17 through December 16, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm. Tickets: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2737757 info: http://schmee.org/season/2017/twilight-zone-live or (206) 324-5801