Suffer The Long Night Theater Review - The Perfect Combination of Comic Chaos

The play within the play is the thing.

The Merrillville Christmas classic "Suffer the Long Night" celebrates the infamous theater mantra, “The show must go on.” For the Merrillville Merry Art Players, whose majority has been smited with the vicious flu going around, that means putting on a play made for a cast of 23 with a skeleton cast and crew of seven.

Greg Glienna & Kipleigh Brown in "Suffer the Long Night"

The play within the play of Suffer the Long Night tells the tale of The Burling Family, an innocent suburban family and how their Christmas Eve turns to terror by two escaped convicts invade their home in search of stolen jewels. All the while, the jealous boyfriend Dirk lurks and two detectives slowly piece together the whereabouts of the convicts.

Pam Levin and Jeffrey Markle in "Suffer the Long Night"

Lead by stage diva extraordinaire Meredith Lipschitz-Sinclair (Pam Levin), the production boasts the stellar cast of Thom Elam (Jon Vanmiddlesworth) in his 11th Merries production, Mitzi Becker (Stephanie Manglaras) as eldest daughter Mary and Joanee Brody (Kipleigh Brown), a last minute replacement for her daughter Caitlin as the youngest daughter Rosie. Also as last minute replacments are the additions of Jimmy Vincent (Greg Glienna) as Louie, Matt Hosier (Brandon Alexander) as boyfriend Dirk. Thom will play both Mr. Burling and his mother, Grandmother Burling. The crackerjack detectives are played by Glen DeRozier (Eric Porzadek) and Jack Buckley (R.S. Bailey). Twenty-two season Merrillville veteran Roger Sinclair (Jeffrey Markle) rounds out the hapless cast as dastardly dangerous Cops Carmichael. The show’s crew consists of exactly one stage phobic Stage Manager (Mandi Smith).

The Merrillville Players production of Suffer the Long Night does start off wobbly. Slowly, things begins to unravel with forgotten line, missed technical cues, an obviously very ill eldest daughter who coughs and wheezes throughout, the lack and loss of prop and, wait for it, a bottle of prop whiskey that turns out to be real alcohol. After all that, the least of this production’s woes is the bad acting and inexperienced performers. There is blood, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids shed by this ragtag company of players in their unrelenting effort to have the show go on.

Pam Levin, Jon Vanmiddlesworth and Stephanie Manglaras in "Suffer the Long Night"

This play is hilarious. With a subtle touch of environmental theater, the play has begun the moment the house doors open. The program is also a clever piece of the puzzle that most people will overlook, so read the program. (hint: both of them) Well timed light, sound effects and music miscues flavor the theatrical confusion on stage quite well, with Tech becoming almost another character in the piece.

Greg Glienna and Stephanie Manglaras in "Suffer the Long Night"

There is bad acting and then there is “Bad acting”. I love “Bad Acting” because it requires so much skill. This company was very good at being bad. High praise to the actual cast of Suffer the Long Night for keeping the audience off center just enough to wonder, was that really a mistake? Did he really forget his lines? Are there loose lights over MY head?

Perhaps what I love best about this show is the writing. This is great example of the best reason to break the fourth wall. This structure makes the audience part of the show without tying us down with one format, one perception or one narrator. The characters of this piece are constantly trying to re-erect the wall between audience and performers, and fail miserably.

I thoroughly enjoy this production. The entire cast as a whole did a great job. Their comic timing and non-stop energy as an ensemble was impressive. To mention a single one of my favorite moments would be to spoil the many delicious surprises this show has in store for you. And the not knowing is the best part.
(OK, I’ll mention one: The loop the actors find themselves is priceless. Just priceless! God love actors. And kudos to the writers, who obviously have done some acting in their day.)
There are a couple rather graphic bits in this show and I would suggest thinking twice about bringing small children. But do go see it. You’ll have fun, at the expense of the Merrillville Merry Art Players.

“Suffer the Long Night” makes its World Premiere  now through September 14th at:

Meta Theater
7801 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Friday, Saturday & Sunday @ 8PM

For more information call 323-960-7745

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