Anytime a community theatre decides to mount a two person show, I am instantly hesitant to see the production. Relying on two amateur actors who typically don't have the time to methodically rehearse for months to carry a show is a tall order. Add in the fact that one of those actors must be bed-ridden for almost the whole first act, and you've got a recipe for disaster. However, Marc Anthony Glover and his talented cast are doing brilliant things with the script and conveying the story. Marc Anthony Glover's direction is frantically paced, ensuring that psychological tension develops quickly and keeps audiences pristinely discomforted throughout the entire production. He has coached his cast to expertly capture the audience's attention and cling to their every word in every scene, joyfully watching the unsettling and horrific plot crescendo to its enthralling climax.
As the protagonist, Tad Howington deftly creates a sympathetic character in his portrayal of Paul Sheldon. The audience roots for his successful escape from the misery inflicted by Annie. Each of Tad Howington's screams of pain killer dependent agony makes us cringe and ache for him. Like him, we are mortified by Annie's terrible bed side manner as she slips into psychotic episodes of pure sadism. Additionally, Tad Howington deserves immense kudos for keeping audiences entertained and engaged for the lengthy time that he spent completely bed-ridden, giving the audience a riveting performance.
Annie Wilkes is brought to gleaming life by Carrie Doss. She handles the extremes of the character with ease, vacillating between sheer happiness and frightening bouts of insanity. Carrie Doss chills audiences with lines and references to her past deeds, such as killing other people, and when she flies off the handle and does unthinkably cruel deeds, like making Paul drink the mop water. Even with Carrie Doss' thrilling performance, I wish I had seen more subtle and smooth transitions between the two extremes of Annie. Sometimes a sound and lighting effect transition Annie from one emotion to the other; yet, it feels like Carrie Doss' emotions flip like a light switch with or without those effects.
Scenic Design by Marc Anthony Glover is truly stunning. Once the curtain rises and the lights come up on the set, the audience is wholly and magically transported to Annie's secluded cabin. Design elements include cleverly cut away walls so that space is defined, but the audience doesn't miss anything. Moreover, the set is fantastically decorated and completely resembles a home. No detail is overlooked and every nook and cranny has some element that tells us who Annie is as a person, especially when we get to see the inside of the bathroom and the inside of her cabinets in the living room.
Marc Anthony Glover's Lighting Design pairs fantastically with the set and the special effects offered for Annie's psychotic breaks are well designed and employed in the show. I was consistently impressed by the use of fading color washes outside of the windows to indicate time of day and the passing of time. Likewise, the stark and uncovered bulbs in Annie's hallway and kitchen were great touches that were used for devastatingly creepy and completely enjoyable effect.