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Theatre Reviews
Sunday, November 11, 2012
OMG: The Red Barn's Season Opens With a Wow

By C. S. Gilbert

Wow. As reluctant as Solares Hill is to succumb to the melodrama of superlatives, occasionally it's necessary to let it all hang out. WOW.

The world premiere of Bob Bowersox's crime noir drama "Person of Interest" took place on Wednesday at the Red Barn and runs through Nov. 24. We witnessed the first preview -- and the power of the piece is such that, even with a pre-opening glitch or two, the evening was a superb exercise in integrated, effective theater and the audience emerged shocked and moved -- with our assumptions shaken, our emotions stunned. OMG. Wow.

Most impressive, amid a half-dozen pitch-perfect performances, is the pure seamlessness of the play. From the opening music (effectively mood-setting: kudos to director Bowersox) to the lights up on the trio of mini sets (kudos again to designer Bowersox) to the ups and down of questioning the suspect (the "person of interest"), the revelatory dialogue and an even more revelatory monologue, finally in the hair-raising music at the end: OMG. Wow.

The monologue was beautifully delivered by Melody Moore in the role of Susan, the withholding trophy wife of the suspect, a wealthy, powerful and arrogant Henry Hurst (whisper: William Randolph, get it?) more than ably portrayed by veteran actor Tom Murtha.

Hurst is pitted against both the bad cop, Det. James Bell, a scary, 100-percent in-character Ross Pipkin, and -- by contrast -- the brilliantly-skilled visiting Inspector Catherine Lyle, played with keen intelligence by Vanessa McCaffrey, on exchange from Scotland Yard. (It should be noted here that, while Bowersox adapted the play from a pulp novel by British author John Wainwright, who died in 1979, it is set in the present in a small, coastal U.S. city and takes place in the course of a night's interrogation.)

The contrast could not be clearer. It is the battle of the sexes, of certainty versus certainty, of black versus white. Or is it? Thus Bowersox leads his audience down a primrose path. We cannot be so cruel as to reveal any of the twists in this path but trust us, they're there, on steroids. Cheers to the cast, which also included Karl Stahl, totally comfortable as Chief of Detective Grimes; Jack Terry, wholly vigilant as Sergeant Adams; and Stephanie Yosen, earnestly making the most of the small role of the Uniformed Officer.

Congratulations as well to stage manager Julia Tetreault, lighting designer Jules Conn and the always professional tech and house staff of the Red Barn.

"Person of Interest" very deliberately has the gritty quality of a black-and-white motion picture, specifically a noir crime film of the 1940s and '50s. Set and costumes are monochromatic: black, myriad shades of grey, white. Bowersox's controlling concept of the script has been perfectly realized.

It would be unforgivable of me to trivialize this show with a playful designation of either tissues or Depends. It offers too poignant a lesson.

Tickets are on sale at the box office, 296-9911. Go see for yourself.