Volume 92, Issue 94
Thursday, March 25, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Rope hangs suspense in the air
© Clare Elias/Gazette
By Sara Martel
The Huron Underground Dramatic Society's production of the play Rope does not sneak up on you.
It does not hide its dark comedy, nor does it apologize for its murderous drama. Rope invites audiences into the dark, then slaps them in the face with intrigue, tension and murder as they grope around for the lights.
Rope was written in the 1920s by playwright Patrick Hamilton. The play's bleak exploration into the psychology behind murder carries a post-war sentiment. Its fascination with the macabre, however, proves to be timeless, as Alfred Hitchcock turned the play into a film decades after it was written by Hamilton. Rope's appeal has not yet faded, as the Huron Dramatic Society successfully resurrects this dark and incredibly witty tale.
Characters Brenda (Alexandra Frewer) and Granillo (Jay Lalonde) have committed what they deem to be the perfect crime a seamless, passionless murder. The remainder of the play focuses on the psychology of murder and the significance of motive and conscience or lack thereof.
Audiences are made immediately aware they have entered the realm of dark drama, with the inference of a corpse kept in a chest for the dramatic centerpiece. The chest remains at the heart of the plot as Brenda and Granillo leave it in the living room, only to surround it and its unfortunate occupant with a pleasant dinner party.
The play tauntingly oscillates between the tension of guilt and discovery in one scene, then polite "chit chat" in the next. This movement between the gruesome and the banal is what lends Rope its suspenseful appeal, although some may find it tedious. Without this quality, it is hard to imagine a successful climax to a play which reveals the crime and the criminals within the first few lines of dialogue. This early and detailed revelation might actually weaken the play for some, since it detracts from the exact element which makes a murder mystery mysterious.
Keeping Rope taut is its clever dialogue and character interaction. Most of this wit springs from the character of Rupert Kedel (Julian Brown). Rupert is the stolid friend of Brenda and Granillo, who denounces the value of life or any moral stigma attached to murder. This character's amorality, coupled with his intellectual pretension creates some very sharp and funny banter. Brown's notable performance exudes the appropriate arrogance and sardonic wit to meet this accomplishment.
Another outstanding performance is given by first-year Huron student Alexandra Frewer. She maintains her character's cool and contriving attitude throughout the play, giving a convincingly conceited portrayal of a person who has killed for the vanity of the sport.
The personalities surrounding Rupert, Granillo and Brenda enhance the ironic tension in Rope, as their pointless words, constant dozing and sips of gin highlight the unforgettable fact that there is a corpse in the room.
The Huron Underground Dramatic Society's production offers wit, suspense, hors d'oeuvres and strangled bodies clearly a winning combination. Those who are not afraid of the dark should venture into the sick yet humourous world of Rope.
Rope plays Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. in Room U214 at Huron College. Tickets are $4.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999