Are the dead bodies Elaine Wheeler claims to see real, or are they part of a plot to slowly drive her crazy?
That’s the premise of “Night Watch,” a thriller that opens Friday at Rochester Civic Theatre.
Let’s get one thing straight, though: This is not a murder-mystery farce. In fact, it’s dead serious.
“It’s a thriller, not a comedy,” says Greg Miller, who is directing the show. “It’s a straight-up kind of murder mystery. It’s different from others in which you have the locked room, the knife and everybody’s a suspect.”
The play was written by Lucille Fletcher, best known, perhaps, for another of her thrillers, “Sorry, Wrong Number.” She also wrote a radio play, “The Hitch-Hiker,” for Orson Welles, which was adapted for an episode of TV’s “The Twilight Zone.”
So Fletcher knows how to mix a thriller with a bit of horror — the kind Elaine Wheeler is experiencing in “Night Watch.”
“Is she seeing things, or is someone trying to drive her crazy?” asks Miller.
Well, let’s see. Her husband wants to get Elaine committed to a sanitarium, which conveniently gets her out of the way so he can continue his affair with Elaine’s best friend, Blanche. There are several other characters who are not what they first appear to be.
“You can assume a person is good, but things happen that make you say, ‘That’s not very nice,’” Miller says.
This is one of those plays that teases the audience with clues and hints. “It’s always fun to play with the audience, without giving too much away,” says Miller.
“The murder action takes place off-set,” he says. “So you don’t get to see what she sees. It’s like a radio play in that way — what you see is in your mind’s eye.”
Miller has cast Suzanne Easlund as Elaine, with Sean Lundberg as her husband and Christina Stier as Blanche.
Note that this play is presented only on Fridays and Saturday, with one matinee on Sunday, June 26.
If you go
What: “Night Watch”
When: Friday through June 26. Performances at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. June 26
Where: Rochester Civic Theatre, 20 Civic Center Drive SE
Tickets: $24 adults, $19 senior citizens, $17 students; 507-282-8481