Markham Little Theatre is back at the Markham Theatre this month for its third show of the 2023/24 season with Night Watch.
This suspenseful thriller was penned in the mid-20th century by Twilight Zone writer Lucille Fletcher and it runs from Feb. 14 to 17 at 8 pm with a 2 pm matinee on the 17.
“As director, I like to take creative risks,” says the show’s director, Carl Gambcort. “We’re doing a few different things with this production. Images play an important part of the action, specifically with Elaine, the central character.”
Night Watch features a classic setup; an insomniac, the aforementioned Elaine, peeks out the window of her New York City apartment and in the building next door she witnesses a murder. The police can’t find any evidence though so nobody believes her despite what she knows she saw.
If this brings to mind an Agatha Christie novel, you are getting the idea. Especially once you meet the enigmatic supporting cast of characters; an overly kind best friend, the gossip-in-waiting housekeeper, an unfeeling husband, and the ever-imposing neighbour. A bit like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but with more folks involved.
“Rehearsals are going extremely well, says Gambacort. “We have a wonderful cast of experienced MLT stalwarts and some wonderful newcomers.”
Among the newcomers is Julie Condon, who is playing the title role of Elaine Wheeler.
“She is a psychology professor at York,” explains Gambcort, “which really assists in tackling a very demanding role.”
Other faces new to the company are Elliot Atherton as Officer Vanelli, Jack Burrill as Lieutenant Walker and Yannis Kassios, who is playing Sam Hoke, the neighbourhood deli owner. They are joined by MLT veterans John Fetherston as John Wheeler, Elaine’s husband; Julia Guthrie as Blanche Cooke, Elaine’s best friend; John Sellens as Curtis Appleby, their eccentric and intensely curious neighbour; Sue Pybus as Helga the maid and Jaime Oren as Dr. Tracy Lake, a psychologist.
“Lucille Fletcher has written a very clever script,” Gambcort says. “There are numerous twists and turns as the action progresses, all of it leading to the final climax of the play.”
These twists and turns are bolstered by an ambitious design concept.
“As this is a psychological thriller, there is always something missing or ‘not quite right’. To that end we are being quite overt about that visually,” says Gambcort. “Certain things are stripped down to their essential elements. We have incorporated psychology into colour choices, particularly with costumes. The colours worn by the characters represent certain qualities associated with them: power, loyalty, etc.”
Additionally, the design features projections and strong symbolic choices. It’s a very modern and arguably uniquely Canadian approach to this 50-year-old American piece.
“To create something, one needs only a space and imagination,” says Gambcort. “We leave it to the audience to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks.”
The production team features, in addition to Gambcort, MLT vet Annie Clark as stage manager. They are joined by Nicky C. Marsh and Judy Atherton who are producing.
Markham Little Theatre has a long history, since 1967 to be exact, of producing murder mysteries. They’re an absolute staple of community theatre. It’s refreshing to see this company trying to push at its limits and expectations in service of an otherwise traditional script.
“One can guess at the final outcome, but the brilliance of it is that you really don’t know the whole story until the very end,” says Gambcort. “Expect the unexpected.”
Visit markhamtheatre.ca for more information and to purchase tickets.
Photo: The cast of Night Watch sits in a Manhattan drawing room.