The Paranormal Turns Pedantic in ‘The Twilight Zone’ Adaptation

That’s the episode of “The Twilight Zone,” you may remember, in which a community fretting about nuclear attack finds itself succumbing to rancor and hatred as it prepares for the worst. As tweaked by the playwright to chime with our own grievous times, the discussion widens to fold racism and xenophobia into the mix: a laudable impulse, in principle, that has the paradoxical effect of stopping the production dead in its tracks in favor of the sort of heavy-going debate that one might find in the comments section of many an article online.

In design terms, the aptly monochrome nature of Paul Steinberg’s set enfolds the action within an enormous TV screen that frames the stage, within which is suspended a second, smaller screen on which snippets get played out. The deliberately low-tech usage of props swirling in and out of view begins to pall after a while, as do rotating discs emblazoned with period psychedelia or equations like E=mc² — the proceedings watched over by a starry galaxy suggesting dimensions unknown. (The spectral lighting is by the expert Mimi Jordan Sherin.)

The 10-strong cast (plus three supernumeraries on hand to move scenery) easefully juggle multiple roles, even if their assignments sometimes pad a production that loses focus along the way. A vampy song-and-dance number for the musical theater actress Lizzy Connolly late in Act 1 doesn’t deliver, and you may be surprised to find a talking doll able to quote Norma Desmond from “Sunset Boulevard.” There’s a potential head-scratcher in a running gag involving the mysterious appearance, or absence, of cigarettes until one recalls that Mr. Serling, an avid smoker, had advertised Chesterfields on air.

In performance terms, the production is inevitably dominated by John Marquez — a regular in Mr. Jones’s theater work over the years — as this show’s very own Serling equivalent, referred to only as “Narrator.” Possessed of the series creator’s strong eyebrows,…

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