Review: 'The Twilight Zone' takes the stage

Gordon Jones
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St. John's theatre company stages TV classic

On Wednesday evening, I had my first encounter with “The Twilight Zone,” in the form of a set of three episodes based on Rod Serling’s popular and long-running American television series, first screened in 1959, focusing on sci-fi and bizarre or paranormal phenomena.

First up in the Barbara Barrett Theatre is a sketch performed largely in the dark, with flashlights. A bandaged young woman (Jennifer Smith) is recovering from cosmetic surgery, tended by a nurse (Louise Kearley) and a surgeon (Wade Lambert). When the bandaging is removed and the lights go up, bizarre circumstances are unexpectedly revealed.

In the second sketch, towering, cloaked and hooded, telepathic aliens from another galaxy have invaded Earth. One of them (Philip Daniel, in there somewhere) interacts wordlessly with three humans (Brad Stone, Dave Walsh, Doug Boyce). The aliens bring new strains of food and wine. Are they threats or benefactors? Another bizarre and pithy punch-line.

After a 15-minute intermission, a poker dealer (Morris Hodder) plays for high stakes with an elderly, inexperienced player (Tolson Barrington) bearing a cheque for $500,000, hoping to double up, so that both he and his elderly wife (Frankie O’Neill) can afford to be rejuvenated by transplantation into young bodies, selected from a catalogue provided by a New Life Corp. salesman (Christopher Tobin).

The poker dealer improbably lets the mark keep his money — but he still can afford only one transplant. The resolution is sweetly sentimental.

Some 15 actors are involved in the three sketches, a number of them current or former high-school teachers of theatre, so there is no shortage of learned experience here. The show was warmly received by the full, opening-night audience. .

Adapted for the stage by Christopher Tobin and directed by Fabian O’Keefe, the School Zone production of “The Twilight Zone” runs until Sunday, starting at 8 p.m. in the Barbara Barrett Theatre in the basement of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre. Running time, including brief intermission, is 95 minutes.

Organizations: Barbara Barrett Theatre, New Life, School Zone

Geographic location: St. John's

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