Anne Washburn successfully adapts CBS television show.
Anne Washburn’s adaptation of The Twilight Zone, directed by Richard Jones, is based upon the CBS television series of the same name, and is the first production to be made in affiliation with CBS. It includes witty re-enactments of the eight traditional broadcasts in a weird and colourful (though not literally as the set remained monochrome throughout) assembly which provided the audience with an elegant balance between comedy and intrigue.
The show begins in a diner as the main cast are grouped together in an introductory skit which surrounds the existence of a camouflaged alien. The actors are charming in their interactions and take on their multiple parts with obvious confidence and capability. Rather than simply acting, the cast it utilised throughout the play as they vigorously execute the repeated transformation of set. Cardboard cut-out, which display otherworldly and uncanny images and caused ripples of laughter from the audience as they were spun to mimic rather lo-fi optical illusions, allow the production to maintain the presence of its mid-20th century origin.
A horrifying plastic surgery takes place, a little girl is lost in another dimension, another girl is found to not be real, there are a number of astronauts who both do and do not exist and a group of suburban families argue over who gets to stay in a neighbour’s bunker as America is at the edge of extinction. All hell ensues. Racial accusations are thrown, what counts as the real American dream is discussed and a politically relevant claim regarding a foreigner’s stealing of jobs was also included, there is a mirror placed between the cold war and Trump’s America. Jones and Washburn have managed to create a psychological thriller whilst simultaneously demonstrating an understanding of present issues.
Being a student I had only heard of, rather than seen, the original show. I was therefore left somewhat lost when obvious references were made to the more serious television production. However, this was only a fault of my own, and when the characters repeatedly found themselves unbeknownst with cigarettes in their hands, and bras, and behind their necks, it was easy to infer its relation to the original; Rod Serling’s recognisable summary of each episode is captured by each actor in turn. The play’s insistence on including the traditional overview at the end of each mini-segment.
Image courtesy Almeida Theatre