Pulling up to the Apple Hill Playhouse on Thursday evening I wasn’t sure if I was about to see a performance or sing karaoke at a roadside country bar thrown in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The half lit interchangeable roadside sign assured me I was in the correct place, though, as I pulled in to the gravel lot and attempted to find a parking space amongst the multitude of cars and a business bus toting a handful of senior citizens eager to see the show. I walked on to the back porch, which seemed to once hold more beer bottles than porch chairs, and attempted to make my way into the show only to be scolded by the attendant for not going downstairs to get my tickets first (my b Apple Hill, my b). After finding my way to this hidden box office, securing my tickets, and politely declining the 50/50 raffle ticket offer, I found my way to my seat, which was in the front row of the balcony of the theater. By the time I got settled in the lights were coming on, the announcer was taking the stage, and tonight’s showing of It Could Be Any One Of Us was about to begin.
The theater was very dark and dusty with little to no lighting coming from the outside. The space seems to have been transformed into this modern day theater from either a barn, bar, or both. I attempted to do some research on Apple Hill’s website to uncover its transformative past, but came up short. Regardless of what it used to be it is clear that its current tenants pride themselves on the country-esk feel of the place. This set the scene well for the performance about to take place in the Chalke country house’s living room on a rainy January evening.
The scene starts with a large bearded man named Mortimer Chalke (Rick Dutrow) playing the piano while several presumable family members are scattered around half-listening to the bland, but consistent tune. About a minute into the scene, Norris Honeywell (Craig Soich) bursts into the room from the outdoors soaking wet from the rainy evening. He is shushed by every one of the family members besides Mortimer who is still diligently playing his melody. He seems annoyed by this and continues to express his disinterest as everyone slowly, but surely begins to leave the room. He knocks over several fire pokers, which angers Mortimer and commences a screaming match between the two. The dynamic of these characters is intricately laid out in the opening acts and continues to follow them throughout the performance.
Other characters in this play include Mortimer’s sister, Jocelyn Polegate (Terri Bowser), brother Brinton Chalke (Matt Henderson), Jocelyn’s daughter, Amy Polegate (Angie Lavelle), and Wendy Windwood (Pam Lee) who is an old piano student of Mortimer’s who he claims he is going to leave the family estate to. Shortly after this announcement and Wendy’s arrival, the performance turns into a murder mystery bearing a striking resemblance to the famous board game and movie Clue. I say this due to the dysfunctionality of each of the characters, the various weapons and rooms that are used to commit the attempted and actual murders, and the underlying maladaptive humor of it all, which presides over each and every scene.
All of the actors gave great performances from the neurotic and perfectionist attitude Bowser embodied in Jocelyn to the pretentious yet clueless demeanor of Soich’s Honeywell and the excitable, but loveable Brinton that Henderson portrayed so eloquently. Lavelle’s portrayal of the angsty Angie seemed a bit over the top to me sometimes, but nevertheless humorous. Lee’s appearance made her seem to be just as upbeat and pleasant in real life as Windwood was throughout the performance and Dutrow’s bulky build and booming voice was the perfect match for Mortimer’s demeanor.
The stage was simple as it should be with only one room being needed for this performance. The antique furniture, books, games, and kitchenware perfectly suited the countryside home. Although the setting made it seem as though this performance was taking place in the past, a comment from Windwood about an incident outside Starbucks during the latter part of the show made me realize this was more of a present day interaction. The scenery definitely fooled me.
Speaking of scenery, major props go to Bowser who almost had a wooden fixture on top of the “kitchen door” fall on her in one of the final acts of the show. Judging by the audience’s reaction and context of the play this was certainly not planned, but she went along naturally with it urging Windwood to leave the home as fast as she could. Get. It. Girl.
All in all, I really enjoyed the performance despite the few minor hiccups. There will be several more viewings of the show through August 8 and to get more information on the dates and times click here. For ticket information and prices check out this link.
Performance Date: Thursday, July 30, 2015