Alfred Hitchcock Resents: The Master of Suspense Unscripted | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Alfred Hitchcock Resents: The Master of Suspense Unscripted 

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Alfred Hitchcock Resents: The Master of Suspense Unscripted, Free Associates, at the Royal George Theatre Center. Hitchcock's horror, in films such as Psycho and in his two popular television series, is the focus of the Free Associates' latest improv show, conceived and directed by Adrienne Smith--a rhapsodic romance set against a nameless evil and spooky excerpts from 1950s Hitchcock sound tracks. But there's a difference between characters imagining death and characters guessing the next punch line.

Escalating her hysteria nicely, Susan Gaspar plays embattled heroine Phyllis Beaumont, whose phobia about ferrets is overcome by the ardor of Jo-Jo Klunkstein, a recently discharged ribbon clerk (played by Anthony Perkins look-alike Joe Reilly). The epicene villain (a simpering Todd Guill) chases the lovers from LA to the Great Wall of China, trying to get from them a special Chinese tissue to stop his constantly running nose.

The "film" on opening night contained tart dialogue, especially between the ecstatic lovers, and a clever pursuit scene, but little terror laced the safe suspense or the unsubtle violence. Why Phyllis had to climb the Great Wall when her real fear was rodents escaped me. And making the coveted tissue poisonous was too easy a resolution.

A problem with trying to improvise Hitchcock is that nothing this master of premeditation did was improvised. It didn't help that the actors dove right into the story rather than breaking offstage for a bit to brainstorm about how to fit in the admittedly lame audience suggestions. This kind of hubris could give you vertigo.

--Lawrence Bommer

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