Review: Spotlight Theater’s Deadly Game

Just last weekend my beau and I motored our way down to New Lenox to watch a mutual friend’s production of The Deadly Game by James Yaffe.

Spotlight Theater is fairly new to the New Lenox area (no pun intended), but it is definitely not new to the world of community theater. Originally from the Homewood area, it was difficult to have to uproot from an established area and move to not only somewhere fairly new, but a town that already had an established community theater group in vicinity. Is there room for two community theater groups in this sleepy southwest Chicagoland town, only time will tell. However, if closing night is any indication then I suspect that Spotlight Theater will be around for some time.

The production is about a quadrille of retired friends: a prosecutor, a defense lawyer, a judge and the extra. All of whom relax together at an isolated home out in the middle of Switzerland and play an old “parlour game” to pass the time.

During one of their get-togethers an American businessman happens upon them, finding himself stuck in the storm and unable to continue on his trip to town. After a little bit of time warming up by the fire and having a bit of alcohol and food he is invited into their parlour game playing the defendant.

And so begins a court enactment where each of the players re-enact their roles that they’ve played in their life and the American businessman being grilled for a “crime” that he may or may not have committed.

What drew me to the edge of my seat was how intense each of the actors played their roles, whether it was Tony Labriola as Emile Carpeau the judge, with his calming presence and logically sensibilities keeping the “game” afloat and on path, or Carol Stein as Gerta Kummer the no-nonsense prosecutor who grills the cocky and arrogant  Howard Trapp as played by Rob Nosek. Robert Douglas Fox plays Bernard Laroque the defense lawyer, who believes in the human spirit. Matthew Bockus, Janis La Crosse, Jake Thomas and Kim Madison round out this stellar cast.

There are very few suspense / thriller shows that capture my attention up to when the curtain closes, let alone entices me to feel what the protagonist is feeling (if there is such a thing as a protagonist in this particular show). What I really enjoyed about this production was towards the end of the show when I realized just how open ended the ending became. At first glance one would believe that they know what happens, but upon further investigation you realize that you really don’t know much at all. It is those little nuances that reveals just how well everyone play their parts in this show.

Director Jeff Gamlin’s eye for detail and love of the script is clearly shown from the beginning, from the little decorative pieces on the desk to the stance of each character. Jeff’s strength in directing comes from seeing not just the forest, nor the trees, but the leaves on those trees as well.

As long as Spotlight Theater continues producing shows like The Deadly Game, the audience will always be there, and quite honestly, they will develop a following and be around for a while.

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