Despite some terrific character acting, H. Bart Goldberg's adaptation of the classic thriller The Lodger never manages to convey any real suspense. As a result, it is like lodging in a nondescript hotel: it gets the job done, but it won't leave any memories behind.
Reviewed by Caitlin Fahey
The Workshop Theatre has done a great job of promoting its latest production, H. Bart Goldberg's adaptation of Maire Martello's The Lodger. Jack the Ripper meets Hitchcock on the stage? Now that's enticing. Unfortunately, once the curtain rises on this lukewarm affair, the thrills associated with a notorious serial killer and a silver screen legend quickly evaporate.
Despite a first-rate cast, there's never much suspense on stage. Kristen Lowman and George Innes play the desperate owners of a struggling lodging house well, but they never seem to be in any real danger from their mysterious lodger. Sure, Lowman struggles—as Mrs. Bunting—between the economic need to take on a lodger and the moral need to protect herself from a man who may be the notorious "Avenger" (John Martello). It's just difficult to care about her decision in the absence of tension. Mrs. Bunting grows exceedingly anxious when her daughter, Daisy (Amanda Jones), enters the questionable lodger's room, but why all the hand-wringing? As for Michael Guagno, he's endearingly naïve as Joe, a young detective looking for a murderer who may be right under his nose, but this innocence edges more on comedy than suspense.
It's a shame that the show fails to strike a nerve. Craig Napoliello's beautifully realistic set is wasted—there is no mood to fill the space. Likewise, while there are actors to wear Isabelle Fields's authentic period costumes, there are no characters to fill them out. Mike Riggs's lighting design may seamlessly transition from the foyer to the bedroom, but nothing there really shines.
The Lodger, a show with incredible potential, should leave very little to criticize. Unfortunately, after the cast has finished walking through the action and the dialogue, the curtain will inevitably fall, and the piece will be easily forgotten.
The Lodger (90 minutes, 1 intermission)
The Workshop Theatre (312 West 36th Street)
Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. through February 1.
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