Written by Erin Tobin
For me, fall means more than the return of pumpkin spice lattes. It also means the return of stories of horror and suspense, and the Maverick Theater in Fullerton has the latter covered with Rope, a tragic, psychological thriller where the question isn’t “who done it” but rather “will the murders be found out.”
Inspired by the historic Leopold and Loeb murder case, the tale was first penned by British playwright Patrick Hamilton in 1929 before it was more famously retold on film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1948. Old school friends Brandon and Phillip murder another classmate named David, put his body in a chest in the living room of their Manhattan penthouse and proceed to throw a dinner party. To make matters worse, this was no crime of passion; Brandon simply wants to prove that he’s a superior being who can pull off the perfect crime.
The motivation seems insane, but Curtis Andersen plays Brandon as a charming bully with just a hint of psychopathic tendency. He seems like the jerk everyone knows, but everyone assumes is just talk. Andersen captures Brandon’s delight as he raises the stakes each chance he can: by inviting David’s father to the party, by trying to rekindle a romance between David’s girlfriend and her old beau, by serving dinner off of the cabinet that entombs David’s corpse. Meanwhile, Jeremy Krasovic portrays Phillip as a tense young man who has clearly taken on more than he’s capable of handling and gradually comes apart as the night wears on. It is easy to pity Krasovic’s Phillip and wonder if he’ll just confess everything in order to get some relief from Brandon’s game.
Director Joe Hufferd draws heavily from Hitchcock’s version of the story, and includes obvious homages to the famed filmmaker. The opening murder scene includes an unmistakable nod to Hitchcock’s style, and snippets of the score from Vertigo as used to accent dramatic moments in the plot. However, Hufferd makes the play his own as well, moving the setting to the 1960s and giving the protagonists a swanky penthouse bachelor pad furnished with many pieces acquired from Out of Vogue, a Fullerton furniture that also provided props for the hit AMC television show Mad Men.
The set is beautiful and there’s a lot to take in, but do it before the show starts, because though the play was originally written in three acts, the Maverick completes the show in one shot with no intermission offered during the hour and twenty-minute play. While there isn’t much in terms of action beyond the dramatic opening murder scene, you’re going to want to pay attention, especially to Glenn Freeze’s character, Rupert Cadell, an old college professor Brandon holds responsible for his murderous motivations. Freeze unravels Cadell slowly, going from a goofy and slightly annoying intellectual to a man who realizes, in the most horrific way possible, the flaws of his ideology.
Beautiful and deep, Rope is another Maverick Theater production that shouldn’t be missed and continues running through this weekend.
Friday September 18th, 8pm – Saturday September 19th, 8pm
Brandon (Curtis Anderson, left) and Phillip (Jeremy Krasovic)
Brandon (Curtis Anderson, left) tries to stir things up between Janet (Rene Bordelon) and Kenneth (Rob Downs)
Mr. Kentley and Brandon (Scott Keister and Curtis Anderson, left) Rupert (Glenn Freeze), Janet (Rene Bordelon) and Phillip (Jeremy Krasovic)