Based on the Mary Roberts Rinehart story, "The Circular Staircase," The Bat, a 1920's classic mystery play, co-authored by Avery Hopwood, presented by Theatre 40 (located in the Beverly Hills High School), opened to the packed audience on July 26th. Considered one of Rinehart's greatest works, it ran for 867 performances between 1920 and 1922. In 1959, the Bat was made into a movie with Agnes Morehead and Vincent Price.
Decades before Batman, a criminal character roams the streets and countryside of Long Island, NY, terrorizing locals. When wealthy Cornelia Van Gorder (Veronica Cartwright) along with her ditzy maid Lizzie (Loraine Shields) rents an isolated mansion having belonged to the Fleming family, she finds herself terrorized by mysterious circumstances. Lizzie is sure it’s ghosts or the criminal The Bat and Butler Billie (Yas Takahashi) agrees with her.
When Richard Fleming (Ross Alden), the scion of the family, who's bank was recently robbed and his father supposedly dead, is summoned to the house by Cornelia's niece, Dale Ogden (Elizabeth J. Carlisle), he mysteriously dies. Red herrings and wrong turns abound.
The house full of suspects, who all have reasons to lie, soon learn that not only is Bailey,(Michael Perl) the clerk suspected of stealing the money, in the house and secretly engaged to Dale, but an unknown man (Max Bogner) is found tied up in the garage. Then there is discovered of the body of Jack Fleming, the founder and owner of the bank. Jack had presumably been declared dead by Dr. Wells (Stephan Davies.) Everyone, including Richard's friend, Reginald Beresford (Chris Petschler), is trying to find the secret room where Cornelia is sure the money is hidden.
Detective Anderson (Madison Mason) seems determined to disregard Cornelia's amateur sleuth instincts and put down poor Lizzie. Red herrings and wrong turns abound. Though if you look for the not so obvious, you'll have the answer.
Directed by Martin M Speer, the three act play was a bit long and could have been shortened a bit for modern day audiences, but the acting was great. I especially enjoyed the performances of Loraine Shields and Veronica Cartwright. The interaction between the two women was pure chemistry.
The set decorator, Jeff G. Rack did a fabulous job of recreating the time period as did the costume designer, Michele Young. Bill Froggatt's sound enhanced the performance as did Ric Zimmerman's lighting. Michael Frank managed the stage.
Show time is 7:30 evenings and 2 pm on Sundays. Admission is $24 Thurs and Fri. and $26 on Sat and Sun. For reservations call 310 364 0535 or go to www.theatre40.org.