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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Off The Wall pleases with the dark, deviant ‘Rope’

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Defined by its sordid sensuality and macabre hedonism, Off the Wall Theatre’s intimate rendition of Rope, by Patrick Hamilton, tells the story of two gay college students who decide to commit motiveless and passionless murder, just to see if they can pull off the “perfect crime.”

The concept is already an intriguing one, but Director Dale Gutzman conjures an immediately memorable show by scaling back the stage and bringing the audience much closer to the action. In this way, subtle facial expressions and nuanced characteristics that would normally be reserved for film or television are employed to great effect. Obviously, such techniques could only work with a talented cast, which Gutzman was provided, specifically in Jeremy C. Welter (Brandon) and Randall T. Anderson (Rupert Cadell). Between the twitching and stuttering of Anderson’s sardonic poet-turned-impromptu-detective, and Welter’s twisted and devious English accent, the show was brought to life in a most menacing way.

The play is set in England between the two Great Wars, in the apartment of Oxford students Brandon and Granillo (Mark Neufang). The small stage is modestly decorated with typical Jazz Age furnishings, but the actors moved about the room, sometimes abandoning the “stage” completely, effectively bringing the audience into the middle of the action. A majority of the play took place in minimal lighting, casting unsettling silhouettes and distorting features, creating a wondrously eerie and unnerving atmosphere.

Performances run through July 27, at Off the Wall Theatre, 127 E. Wells St. For tickets call 414-484-8874 or visit offthewalltheatre.com.