Johannah Blackman of Mount Desert plays the title role in the New Surry Theater production of “Laura.” She is seen here with Randall Simons as Laura's acerbic mentor Waldo Lydecker. NAN LINCOLN PHOTO

New Surry goes noir with “Laura”



BLUE HILL — The New Surry Theater has once again struck gold with its suspenseful murder mystery “Laura,” now playing at the Town Hall theater.

The play boasts a fine cast is led by Johannah Blackman as Laura Hunt, the beautiful murder victim and romantic interest; Bryan Lescord as Mark McPherson the handsome, brooding detective and Randall Simons as Waldo Lydecker, the clever, manipulative writer.

Their excellent character work and the company’s signature fine production values make this about as close to a professional piece of theater as an amateur production can get, belying the tight budget this terrific little company has to work with.

Annie Poole and Simmons’ set, props and artwork are handsome and elegant and lighting and sound design by Frank John is excellent. Elena Bourakovsky designed superb mid-century costuming, from the characters’ saddle shoes to their terrible ties and fedoras.

Director Robin Jones exhibited attention to detail and an ability to pull all these elements together into a fast-paced two and a half hours of top-notch entertainment.

Without giving too much away the mystery involves the supposed murder of the beautiful, accomplished Laura and the men who, even in death, revolve around her like satellites, trapped in her gravitation force.

There is her fiancé, Shelby (an excellent and pugnacious Tyler Johnstone) who can’t rein in either his temper or his passions; the boy Danny (a very convincing Hoyt Hutchins) who is so besotted by the older woman he can’t see how impossible it all is; Waldo, the writer who considers Laura an unfinished work of art that needs his polishing touch, and of course Det. McPherson, who can’t reconcile the beautiful, perfect woman in the portrait with the real Laura.

All of them in their own way want to possess, and, with one exception, protect Laura. The exception wanted to kill her.

So, OK, the circa-1930 script is a bit dated and while playwright Vera Caspary’s gives the actors some bitingly witty dialogue (the wonderfully arch Simons is every bit as good in this role as Clifton Webb who played Waldo in the 1944 movie), some of the many laughs the show gets are unintentional.

While I initially thought the director might consider leaning into these unscripted, campy moments, essentially giving the audience a knowing wink by delivering the lines as if they were meant to get a laugh, on second thought it’s just fine that they play it straight and let the audience have its fun.

Two other impressive character actresses Leanne Nickon as Bessie the cook and Venessa Hawkens, as Danny’s worried mom, make the utmost out of their smaller roles, and while I believe Michael McFarland as Olsen, McPherson’s assistant, speaks only two or three words his presence is profound.

There is one more weekend of performances of “Laura” Nov. 16 and 17 and 7 p.m. Visit newsurrytheatre.org or call 200-4720.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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