Matt Mazza, who plays Police Lt. Walker, questions Ellie Wheeler about the dead body she allegedly saw. At her right is Deanna Daugherty, who plays Blanche Cooke, Ellie's best friend.
Anyone who goes to see a live theater production, as a newbie or a regular, will tell you there is something mesmerizing about a drama unfolding on stage before your eyes.
And dcp theatre, formerly known as Dutch Country Players, in Salford Township, is taking theater to new heights, or lows, with their current production of “Night Watch” by Lucille Fletcher.
Dcp, the longest continually running, non-profit theater on the East Coast, is enjoying a successful 63rd season including family productions, romances, musicals and comedies.
In “Night Watch,” a mystery/thriller that was made into a 1973 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Harvey, dcp has not only dropped the stage to the floor, but built a set including a 16-sq.-ft. steel-framed window for the audience to take in the action.
The audience can either be a part of the event by looking through that window from the front of the theater or by sitting to the sides of the stage, literally a few feet outside the main characters’ living room. The intimate theater seats around 200.
For Pennsburg’s Geoff Yaroschak, director, the production is a realization of his vision. He likens it to Alfred Hitchcock’s “‘Rear Window’ on steroids.”
“This is like watching a live-action psychological thriller,” he explained. “With all the emotion on stage, you get attached to the characters. The audience in live theater is engrossed. This is something that could happen in real life.”
Dcp’s production sets the scene in Society Hill, Philadelphia, in present day. Elaine “Ellie” Wheeler, a fragile, innocent woman, is recuperating at home after a mental breakdown. Her husband is John, an intolerant, inpatient, stereotypical rich man. Suffering from chronic insomnia, Ellie is up late one night and sees a dead body in an abandoned building across the street through her window.
Police, when called, can’t find anything, including physical evidence, with the exception of an empty wingchair in the building. But Ellie is convinced, and keeps pushing to John and everyone else to believe that she saw a dead body. She soon sees a second body in the same building. Things spiral out of control from there.
“It is a dark and twisted storyline,” Yaroschak said. “But it’s an unbelievable feeling to see that vision come to life. We sat down with the production team and how to convey this. It’s voyeuristic; filled with emotion. Everyone, the actors, crew, did an amazing job.
“I really pushed the cast mentally and emotionally, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Linda M. Friday, who plays Ellie Wheeler, said her character is “one very clever, strong, brave woman.” Friday is a 32-year veteran of theater and came to dcp after being involved in productions at Upper Perkiomen High School.
She said she enjoys being a part of dcp and loves everything involved in theater.
“First of all, there’s always another opportunity to meet and work with new people. My closest personal relationships have been born in the theater. I love that, when I come to rehearsal or performance, I can leave all my day-to-day crap at the front door for three hours. I love being able to bring some pretty amazing characters to life [and] I love getting really lovely or funky costumes to wear.
“I think my favorite part of performing is affecting people, whether that means moving them to tears or causing them to laugh out loud. Or maybe the character I’m playing is going through something that someone in attendance has gone through and the find the performance cathartic for them.”
Yaroschak said dcp, which originated in an old barn in the 1950s, has undergone many improvements over the last several years. Each production takes a dedicated staff of 30-40 volunteers, ranging from the cast to set painters and costume designers to parking guides.
“It’s a credit to the people who come out to support us,” he said. “From patrons to donors and corporate sponsors, we’re thriving.”
“Night Watch” runs through Nov. 23. Shows are Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15 and 16, at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 17, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, Nov. 21, through Saturday, Nov. 23, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for seniors and children.
Dcp’s next production, “The Nutcracker” will be presented Dec. 6-15. For more information visit dcptheatre.com