A Baffling Murder Mystery in “The Bat”
At The Theatre with Audrey Linden
Theatre 40 brings audiences “The Bat,” Mary Rinehart and Avery Hopwood’s classic mystery thriller based on Rinehart’s book, “The Circular Staircase” from 1908. Director Martin M. Speer kept the feel of the 1900’s in this drawing room mystery. The play, with two intermissions runs three hours and is a bit long. Perhaps some judicious cuts would have moved the play along and would have cleared up any confusion. I must admit, I did not have a clue “who done it” and I was kept guessing until the very end. The play captivated and held interest despite its length.
Once again Jeff G. Rack created a wonderful and realistic period set with rust colored walls and wainscoting. Double doors opened to a hall way with a winding stairway. Mahogany table and chairs, built in bookcases, and a period desk served as the dining area, and a lovely rust and black brocade loveseat and chairs made up the living room area. There were old paintings on the walls, a crystal chandelier hung overhead and a Tiffany-type lamp and old phone added nice touches. Bill Froggatt’s incredible sound design helped create the dark, foreboding feeling. I felt a chill as I heard the thunder and rain sounds. Very effective! Rick Zimmerman’s lighting design created realistic lightening and also the darkness illumined only by candlelight. The costumes by Michelle Young gave the feel of the 1920’s.
The ensemble cast worked well together. Loraine Shields as the hysterical maid, Lizzie Allen, started so over-the-top that she had nowhere to go with her characterization. Shield’s character provided much of the comic relief but her hysteria did not build. It was full out from the get go and was disarming and startling. Veronica Cartwright’s Cornelia Van Gorder brought a level of reality and common sense to this mystery. She was the glue that held the elements together and Cartwright did a fine and believable job. Elizabeth J. Carlisle as Dale Ogden, the gorgeous red-haired niece of Cornelia gave a stylized performance. Stephen Davies’ Dr. Wells was an utter scoundrel and he succeeded in creating a dark and suspicious character the moment he set foot on stage. He never broke character and did a fine acting job. Madison Mason as Detective Anderson was very real and added depth to this cat and mouse game. He served to balance the mix of hysteria and skullduggery. His performance was dry and understated and it worked! Ross Alden (Richard Fleming), Michael Perl (Jack Bailey aka Brooks), Chris Petschler (Reginald Beresford) and Max Bogner (the unknown) rounded out the ensemble cast.
The writing was seeped in the 1920’s, and at times the lines were corny and stilted. As the play opened, Cornelia has rented this dark isolated home from Richard Fleming whose Uncle Jonathan is dead or missing and is suspected of robbing his own Union Bank. Lizzie Ann is sure the house is haunted and she wants to go back to the city but her mistress won’t hear of it. Lizzie is hysterical and swears she has seen a large eye and has heard noises. There is a Bat burglar on the loose, and dark forces surround the house. Cornelia has received threatening notes telling her to leave. But, Cornelia takes all in stride and does not scare easily. She is no Ms. Marple, but she is determined to stay and find out who has sent her the notes. Even Dr. Wells tries to convince Cornelia to leave.
Seems the missing Union Bank money might be hidden in the house. Richard Fleming is summoned to the house by a very nervous Dale and is shot to death. Who done it and why? Dale was alone with him and is a suspect. Seems there is a blueprint of the house and that blueprint might reveal the missing room. Hmmmmm. Jonathan might have hidden the money in the missing room. Everyone is a suspect according to Detective Anderson, especially the hysterical Lizzie Ann. Is he deflecting? I suspected Dr. Wells, and the newly hired gardener, Brooks who as Jack Bailey was a Union Bank cashier. Reginald Beresford is a suspect too. Who is walking around the house? Who murdered Richard Fleming? Who stole the money? Who is behind the threats to Cornelia? And who is the Bat burglar?
By the second intermission, the entire set is struck and we are in the attic with draped furniture as the mystery unfolds to its startling conclusion. The ending was a total surprise. I don’t think anyone got it. If there were clues, they were incredibly subtle. The payoff was worth the wait.
“The Bat” at Theatre 40 runs through August 26th. Theatre 40 is located at the Reuben Cordova Theatre at 241 Moreno Dr. at the Beverly Hills High School campus at 241 Moreno Dr. Beverly Hills 90210. There is free parking in the structure. For tickets and show times, call 310-364-0535.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,”etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills, Community Services. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. The next class starts September 20th. For more information, contact Audrey at email@example.com On Line Registration to www.beverlyhills.org/BHRegOnline Click on “Activities” and scroll to On Camera Workshop. Registration will open in August.
The class in for 8 weeks @ $118 from 6:45-9:15 PM ($5 materials fee payable to instructor first night).