I’ve seen several plays about race relations lately. And it’s a shame that despite the fact that the stories were set sixty, fifty, and twenty years ago that we’re still having discussions about race. The story of a black man accused of murder – just because he’s black – who then aids in the solving of the small town homicide, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT reminds us how even those who swear to protect us all aren’t always enlightened enough to truly mean “all.” Even still today.
But more than that social commentary, this play is a wonderful mystery, rich in character. Ed Cohen is known as one of the area’s best directors and his streak continues with inventive staging, use of simple guitar licks and drum beats as sound-texture, and Ted Weil’s simple but effective lighting to tell the story. Cohen has his cast sit behind what resembles three southern-heat screen doors while they await their entrances and exits and they move just a little bit of furniture into place for each scene. The one hour and forty-five minute run time (with no intermission) moves at a brisk pace as the action never stops.
Michael Hall (“Gillespie”), last seen in the brilliant A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, stars opposite Derek Snow (“Tibbs”) in the leading roles. They are supported by Dee Anne Bryll, Tom Peters, James Ball, Terry Gosdin, Rich Setterberg, Allison Evans, Dan Maloney, and Simon Powell. Hall is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors in town. He has excellent timing and gives his characters an authentic air. I am also very impressed with the work of Simon Powell; I’ve never seen him before but I hope that changes. His youthful look belies the maturity and self-confidence usually found in actors much older (like Tom Peters, who does a marvelous job with both of his distinct characters.) Powell has a really great scene in the patrol car with Snow (where the character of Mr. Tibbs finally loses his stoicism giving Snow something interesting to do) where both actors show a range of emotion.
Falcon Theatre has a hit on their hands with this satisfying, bluesy noir-esque production of one of America’s classic stories. All of the tech elements support Cohen’s direction – Weil’s lighting, Tara Williams’s costumes – all high quality. Given the low(er) budget Falcon operates on, they often make the most of what they have. They seem to have stepped up their game here. I strongly suggest you get tickets before they sell out.
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT plays weekends through February 28th. Click here for more information.