Drayton Entertainment’s I’ll Be Back Before Midnight straddles two genres in show at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse“It’s a strange juxtaposition,” says James Kall, director of I’ll Be Back Before Midnight. “I spent a lot of last year co-writing a screenplay that was a thriller. I was in the production of Mary Poppins that opened the new [Drayton] theatre in Cambridge, and when I wasn’t onstage performing Mr. Banks, I’d run up to my room and try to come up with creative ways to kill people.”
Could there be any deep-seated psychological reason for such a state of mind?
“I don’t want to get into that,” he laughs. “It’s a nice release, though.”
Murder, it seems, is in the air at Drayton Entertainment. In the midst of his screenwriting project, Kall is taking the reins on the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse’s new production of I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, a Canadian theatre favourite by Peter Colley.
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“It’s unique because it really does perfectly combine the comedy with the aspect of the thriller – there aren’t many of those out there,” says Kall. “When you’re not screaming out to save the heroine, you’ll be laughing with the next breath.”
The play follows Jan, a disturbed woman released from a hospital after a nervous breakdown. To recover, she travels with her husband to a dilapidated mansion in rural Ontario, which it turns out is a haunted house. Or not. Given Jan’s uncertain mental state, nothing that happens onstage can be taken at face value.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve directed before,” says Kall. “I’ve directed a lot of farces and romantic comedies in the past, but this is a unique challenge because it walks a fine line between the comedy and the thriller aspect.
“With the actors we’ll certainly figure out the best way to play this, in terms of keeping the honesty in the acting but also amping it up just a little in the horror element.”
He adds, “The fact that we could actually do this sort of thriller live onstage that has people flinching when they’re not laughing, it will be a fun challenge to pull off.”
Murder and mayhem are a few steps away from Kall’s previous credits, which include productions of The Wizard of Oz and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The tricky balance of comedy and horror would present a challenge for any director, but Kall’s extensive experience as an actor gives him an advantage (among his credits: you can spot him as an altar boy in The Deer Hunter).
“Because I’ve been working professionally as an actor for 30-some years, if nothing else I believe I know how to speak to actors to get the best work out of them. I’ve worked with some amazing directors over the years who have done that for me.
“The creative process of directing, because it’s such a process of collaboration with the designers and the actors, I just find it so rewarding. I’m thankful that Drayton Entertainment keeps giving me these opportunities to switch back and forth.”
I’ll Be Back Before Midnight runs March 12-30 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse (40 Benjamin Rd. E.). Tickets are $25-$42, and can be purchased online at www.draytonentertainment.com, or by calling 1-855-372-9866.