Review: Bedtime Stories and Other Horrifying Tales

by Lynn on October 22, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and outdoors at 4th Line Theatre Company. The Winslow Farm, Millbrook, Ont

Bedtime Stories and Other Horrifying Tales

Written by Kim Blackwell and Lindy Finlan

Directed by Kim Blackwell

Musical director and original compositions: Justin Hiscox

Costume designed by Madison Costello

Choreographer, Madison Sherwood

Lighting designed by Esther Vincent

Cast: Rebecca Auerbach

Rylee Dixon

Mark Hiscox

Skyleigh Hurd

Soleil Hurd

Tom Keat

Emma Khaimovich

Lev Khaimovich

Caiomhe MacQuarrie

Dierbhile MacQuarrie

Riordan MacQuarrie

Saoirse MacQuarrie

Siobhan MacQuarrie

Jack Nicholsen

Tristan Peirce

Kelsey Powell

Lucas Pronk

Madison Sheward

Riley Tutert

Robert Winslow

A wild adventure for both cast and audience as the mysteries of the story unfold in the dark in the fields of the Winslow Farm, the home of 4th Line Theatre.

The Story.  The action takes place over one night in late fall of 1835 in the Deyell home and at various locations in and around Millbrook, Ont.

Margaret Dyell (Rebecca Auerbach) and her husband John (Jack Nicholsen) are arguing. John finds some love letters Margaret received from her cousin and thinks Margaret is being untrue. Margaret is pregnant and John doesn’t believe the unborn baby is his but Margaret’s cousin. Margaret assures John that the baby is his. In a rage John throws Margaret out of the house and into the dark night.

Samuel (Lev Khaimovich) their young son, rushes out into the dark to try and find his mother. When his courage falters  he hears a deep voice in the dark who tells him to be brave. (Who belongs to that voice is a rather inspired creation of the writers, Kim Blackwell and Lindy Finlan). There are spirits who bedevil Samuel and two friends who are helping him. There are subplots involving other intrigues. Samuel’s sister Maggie (Madison Sheward) wants to run off with her boyfriend Paddy (Tristan Peirce). She knows her father, an Irish Protestant, would not approve of Paddy who is an Irish Catholic. There is a bloody apparition named appropriately enough, “Bloody Mary” who has her own secret.  Bedtime Stories and Other Horrifying Tales is a perfect story for Halloween.

The Production. Eighty theater-hungry-souls turned out with me for the opening performance of Bedtime Stories and Other Horrifying Tales. We all wore masks and were initially seated in socially distanced seating in the barnyard of the farm. The scenes that establish  the story begin in the barnyard and then the great farm adventure begins when we go out into the dark into the meadows and byways of the farm.

Each person is instructed to dress warmly and be aware that the show would go on rain or not. We are encouraged to bring our own flashlight—it gets pitch dark out in the meadow. But there is nothing like looking up and seeing an eery crescent moon and many shining stars.

We are led by flash-light carrying volunteers to guide the way and there are other volunteers along the sides of the paths with lights.  I must confess it is crowded with 80 people trekking on uneven paths and proper social distancing is a challenge. I did leave space between me and the people ahead.

There are several stops along the route around the farm for scenes to unfold: Samuel and his friends seeing ghost-like characters suspended in mid-air wanting them to help them get down; Margaret wandering in the dark and finding her sister-in-law Elizabeth (Riley Tutert) who is worried that her own husband might be up to no good since he’s been drinking; Maggie and Paddy meeting for a tryst only to be chased by people who don’t approve of Paddy and his family.

Each scene is announced with a bang on a cymbal or pot. Powerful flashlights stream crossing paths of light across the fields and the actors perform the scenes in the streams of light. When the scenes are finished, we are then gently guided on the next leg of the journey around the farm.

 Director Kim Blackwell has a delicious sense of how to build a scene to provide as much spookiness as possible. Noise emanates from behind bushes and no, no one wants to go in there to find out what those noises are. There are cries and screams in the dark.

Kim Blackwell and her co-writer Lindy Finlan create a tingling sense of what it’s like to be out in the dark, in unfamiliar surroundings, with things that go bump (growl, scream and moan) in the night. Spirits rise from no where with their own stories. Logic doesn’t really enter into a Halloween story. You just accept it. (However, there is a scene with a gin-drinking-haunted-clown in the meadow that completely mystified  me. But one just accepts that he’s there).

4th Line Theatre Company is noted for its original plays focusing on the stories and history of the area. In the 1800s many Irish immigrants, both Protestant and Catholic, came to the area around Caven to escape the religious violence back home and find peace. So I appreciated that Kim Blackwell and Lindy Finlan included a subplot of how that violence between the Catholics and the Protestants travelled to Canada as well. A vigilante group threatened  Paddy because he was Catholic. One of them said they came to Canada to escape religious persecution. The same could also have been said for Paddy and his family.

(This whole notion of religious persecution and animosity between the Catholics and Protestants in that area was delt with in The Cavan Blazers by Robert Winslowthat also played at 4th Line Theatre Company several years ago.)

The company of actors is a mix of professional actors and eager volunteers from the community. As Margaret, Rebecca Auerbach is intense with fear about her situation and trying to convince her husband of her loyalty and love for him. As John her husband, Jack Nicholson has that clench-jawed stubbornness of a man driven by anger and disappointment. We learn late in the play that what we thought was bedevilling him—his wife was in love with someone else—was not the case at all, but something different that seemed to just appear. Perhaps if the play is revisited John and his angst could be re-examined.

The young actors—there are many school-aged children in the cast—are committed and act with conviction. Young Lev Khaimovich plays Samuel with urgency. He is convincing as a young boy learning to have courage in the darkest of moments.  Nice work.

Comment.  Bravo to 4th Line Theatre Company for rising to the occasion and producing a bracing play in time for Halloween, done outdoors. And bravo to the eighty eager-theatre-hungry people who rose to the occasion and came out to support their theatre.

Presented by 4th Line Theatre Company.

The production runs at Winslow Farm, 4th Line Theatre Company until Oct. 30 at 7:00 pm.

www.4thlinetheatre.on.ca

Box Office: 705-932-4445 or 1-800-814-0055

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