Stephen D’Ambrose – and a dead body – in “Panic”
Thinking about seeing it? Find out what the local critics are saying…
Even though “Panic” won the 2008 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best play from the Mystery Writers of America, it can still be edited. There’s a scene in the first act that drags a little as reporter Alain Duplay (Garry Geiken) tapes an interview with Lockwood.
Otherwise, from Kirby Moore’s handsome set design to Michael Kittel’s lighting, “Panic” is a winner. The smart, loyal American secretary is the hero, and Maren plays her with reserves of physical and intellectual strength. It helps that the actor is tall and solid, and that she signals her intelligence with her eyes and a tone that shows a sharp mind at work.
The casting is largely faultless. Kingsley invests Emma with moral strength, even as she toddles around with a cane. Geiken’s Alain is smarmy and ingratiating, but not too unctuous. Fellner’s Liliane is an international woman of mystery whose secrets we want to know.
The foreign accents, which sometimes wax and wane with actors in other shows, are fairly steady in this production, which means we can focus on the characters.
Its subject might be murder, but “Panic” is a show that’s about thrills. Bratlie’s staging, with this swell cast, hits the right buttons.
Barbara Kingsley in “Panic”
Much praise is due Goodrich for attempting a stage mystery. The form has been thoroughly co-opted by Hollywood. Film-makers can use energy-conferring jump cuts. They can create realistic violence. Juxtapose multiple story lines. Playwrights have more limited resources. They must rely on old-fashioned character development, freely employ red herrings, and describe a lot of off-stage action. In Panic, Goodrich has hit on a nifty device: the spinning of film scenarios. This gives what might be static descriptions of action real present tense energy. Indeed, the writing here is smart and effective…
Here’s the bottom line: Panic is well-written and beautifully acted. But it’s old-fashioned, which means the pacing is stately and play veers to the long side (an hour and ten minutes for Act 1, an hour twenty for Act 2). But if you like mysteries (e.g., the great Agatha Christie), well, this is a production for you.
Alfred Hitchcock was called the “master of suspense” because the English filmmaker knew how to employ his ample cinematic skill set to create anticipation and tension, sending his audiences’ adrenaline racing.
Playwright Joseph Goodrich seems to hold similar aspirations, judging from the production of “Panic” currently receiving its Twin Cities premiere from Park Square Theatre. But even on the rare occasions when Hitchcock was off his game, his films never moved as slowly as “Panic,” which drags along, pulled by the thin thread of one conflict and twists that take way too long to develop. Hence, despite the best efforts of a pair of first-rate veteran actors and a skilled design team, the production is far from a thriller.
Have you seen “Panic” at Park Square Theatre? If so, what did you think? Share your reviews in the comments section.