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Rope - Theatre Review

By Kathy Flynn

David Huynh and Burt Grinstead in Rope
Photo by Larry Sandez

The Actors Co-Op kicks off their 27th season with a production of Patrick Hamilton's Rope, the 1929 play that was adapated into a film by Alfred Hitchcock, a film widely regarded as a masterclass in suspense.  

The play tells the story of two "roommates", Wyndham Brandon (Burt Grinstead) and Charles Granillo (David Huynh) who commit the motiveless "perfect crime." The play starts with a cold open, throwing you immediately into the action. The opening scene, lit entirely by candlelight, is thrilling and deliciously disorienting. Once the lights are on, we find ourselves in a room that is entirely red...walls, floor, furniture. It's a bold and curious statement.

At the Crossley Theatre, the play is in the round, with the audience surrounding and never far from the action, which keeps the performance intimate; you feel more eavesdropper than spectator.

Donnie Smith in Rope
Donnie Smith in Rope
Photo by Larry Sandez

In the midst of the action, you meet Brandon, an arrogant narcissist who wants to prove his mental superiority by inviting his victim's family and friends to a dinner party where the corpse is concealed in a chest. Brandon's partner, Granillo, is consumed by anxiety over their deeds and the game that Brandon is playing is pushing him over the edge. And then there's Rupert Cadell (Donnie Smith), the boys former professor who Brandon is clearly dying to impress with his cleverness. Smith steals the show here in a bravura performance that reminded me ever-so-slightly of Tim Curry.

With the exception of Smith, most of the actors seemed to struggle with their English accents to some degree or another, and frankly, since the London setting wasn't integral to the story, I am not sure why the accents were necessary in a play as dialogue-driven as this one.

Granillo might be the most difficult role to get right, teetering on the edge between terror and rage and Huynh's performance seemed to miss some of the subtle nuances the role required. 

The Cast of Rope at the Crossley Theatre in Hollywood
The Cast of Rope at the Crossley Theatre
Photo by Larry Sandez

The pacing should be taut as a wire to keep the suspense going, but the drama, which takes place in real time at a 100 minutes, felt laggy and overlong at points.

The sound, costuming, lighting and set design were all exemplary. On a whole, I would say that this production, while flawed, is enjoyable, well worth a night out for fans of crime-drama and suspense.

Rope was written by Patrick Hamilton, and directed by Ken Sawyer.  It plays Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through Oct 28 at the Actors Co-Op Crossley Theatre, 1760 N Gower Street, Hollywood, CA 90028.  Tickets are available at w

Posted By Kathy Flynn on October 01, 2018 10:50 am | Permalink