Arts & Culture / Mosaic / November 6, 2019

Sorry, Wrong Number

 

 

A distraught Mrs. Stevenson on the phone, played by post-baccalaureate, Tricia Duke ‘19. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

Iris Berto, junior, answering a call as Duffy, the police officer. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

The stage is lit only by lamps turned on and off on stage depending on the character speaking, except for Duke’s character who was lit up the whole time except for the climax. (Rob Nguyen/TKS)

 

Written by Lucille Fletcher, Sorry, Wrong Number was performed at the Studio Theatre on Nov. 1 and 2. The play opens with Mrs. Stevenson, a disabled woman, attempting to make a phone call to her husband. The phone operator puts her through to a call, but instead of her husband, she hears two men planning out the murder of a woman. Terrified, Mrs. Stevenson attempts to investigate what she heard and alert the authorities but struggles to be taken seriously. Played by post-bac Tricia Duke ‘19, Mrs. Stevenson is on stage for the entire play but is confined to her bed, interacting with other characters only through phone calls. As the play’s mystery unfolds, she increasingly grows paranoid that she is the very woman who’s murder was being planned. The production is darkly lit, with few light sources besides lamps over Mrs. Stevenson’s bed at center stage, and the desk lamps of the individuals she contacts. The performance clocks in at only around 30-45 minutes, but slowly builds up suspense up to a dramatic ending. The lights go black as Mrs. Stevenson screams at an intruder who has entered her room. The play concludes with the killer, whose face is unseen, dialing the police before hanging up on them. 

Mitch Boyle, junior, said the play was his first working on the design aspect of a production, though he has previously served as a Master Carpenter. Boyle stated that the show had aimed for a noir feel with a minimalist set, low lighting and keeping the play’s killer out of clear view. He looked to past productions of the same story, which was originally done as a radio play and later as a film. Among the key creative decisions was keeping the main character in her bed for the entire play, seeking to make her feel completely isolated. 

“A lot of my ideas sort of came from the radio play, because of course in the radio play, we don’t see anything. So I tried to keep the set as simplistic as possible. So that we weren’t saying, ‘oh look at how well crafted that desk is.’ We were focused on the people the entire time.”

—  Mitch Boyle, Set Designer 

 

Iris Berto, junior, acted opposite Duke, and was impressed by her endurance in staying in bed the entire performance and carrying a large load of the play’s lines. Berto’s own role was that of Duffy, the police officer Mrs. Stevenson calls to report the planned murder. Berto explained that Duffy was written on paper as a “jackass” who did not care about Mrs. Stevenson’s situation, but transformed in performance into being sympathetic but simply unable to help. Berto noted that other actors in the show were challenged by having to act with Duke without actually looking at her, as the characters are not supposed to be able to see each other. However, this rule is broken at one point in the play when Duffy and Mrs. Stevenson’s eyes actually meet. Berto described this moment as having been added by Stout to suggest a moment of humanity, where there would be a brief hope Mrs. Stevenson could be saved. Berto is proud of the reaction that play has received, having friends too freaked out by the ending to discuss it. 

“Because the cast was so small, it ended up being super collaborative. It was [Allison Stout’s] play, and she was definitely in charge of everything, but everybody contributed something super important. Like beyond their role, people say what if you tried this, what if you tried that, what if this happened or that light went on at that time. It really honestly felt like everyone’s play in a way I haven’t experienced before.” 

—  Iris Berto, Actor

 

Allison Stout, senior, avoided the past productions of the play to avoid being influenced by them in her staging of the show. She explained that the show’s distinctive lighting actually came about as a result of a shortage of lighting designers available on campus to work on the show. This led to the idea of relying on practical lighting and actors themselves turning on the lights on stage. A significant amount of time was spent on the show’s intense ending, with an entire three hour rehearsal being set aside to work on the choreography of the moment the killer enters Mrs. Stevenson’s room and lunges at her. Stout explained that it had to be ensured everyone was comfortable with the action and timing of movements, especially as the killer — played by Sebastiano Masi, junior — was carrying a knife in the scene. Stout was surprised by just how positive the reception to the play has been, but still had gone in confident that it would be a success due to the spirit of collaboration that went into it.

“I thought the concept of a radio play adapted to the stage was fascinating in its own right. I also thought as I was reading it… I couldn’t figure out why it kept sticking in my head. And I realized that it’s the concept of violence against women and women not being believed when they talk about that violence. And that violence being turned back onto them.”

Allison Stout, Director

 

Carlos Flores-Gaytan, Co-News Editor
Co-News Editor

Tags:  Knox College theater Knox Theatre Department play

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