50th Anniversary: The Desperate Hours

The Leader 03/1993

Joan Regal | Staff Writer

When there is a knock at the front door and a polite young man says, “Sorry to bother you, ma’am, but…..I’ve lost my way….” a hostage drama begins. Those who read the director’s note to The Desperate Hours know that this play was based on a novel that drew from a real-life incident. Director George Franklin Wade says, “In scope, ‘The Desperate Hours’ seems fairly simple, perhaps even a little quaint, with its ‘tough-talking escaped cons,’ and its ‘hard-boiled detectives.’ Even the family has an ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ flavor – at first. But this was a stereotype of the 1950s and our production attempts to reproduce that time – in language, costume, and manner. Even the music has been drawn from 1950’s motion picture scores.”

The strength of the play is in the tension produced as an “ordinary family” finds itself in a situation that will change them forever. Only the father seems to realize that it is not just momentary safety that is at risk – but their lives. As the play develops, the eternal themes of revenge versus civilized behavior are raised. In the 1990s the issue of safety in your own home is on the minds of many. The Desperate Hours forces the thoughtful audience to realize that intrusion is the first issue, but not the last, when emotions of anger, helplessness and fear take over. The cast helped us realize that these emotions are shared by victims and victimizers.

The Lakewood production, designed and directed by Wade, was strengthened by the outstanding set. Set construction is attributed to the class in Stagecraft. A two-floor house, a set divided between the house and a police office was very effective. Lighting provided the curtain between the office and house.

The drama’s success was dependent on strong performances from Randall J. Funk as Glenn Griffin, the leader of the escaped convicts and Jerome J. Urmann as Dan Hilliard, the father whose family has been taken hostage. Brandon Bacchus as Ralphie Hilliard, the young son, and Michael Lofstrom as Jesse Bard the Deputy Sheriff in charge of tracking down the escapees, brought life to their characters. Brad Daniels as Hank Griffin, Glenn’s younger brother, Paul Score as Robish the con, Jodi Hoffman as Cindy Hilliard, Tonia Pavelka as Eleanor Hilliard, the wife and mother, Joe Schmidt as Chuck Wright, Jim Mogren as Tom Winston, Deputy Jerry Loew as Harry Carson, FBI agent, Sean Kelly as Mr. Patterson, Jeff Altier as Lt. Fredericks and Jessica Klein as Miss Swift rounded out the cast.

Production elements can add depth to a performance. The costuming, lighting, and props that created the 50s were important. Cheryl Frost’s costume design helped recreate the era. Those involved with lighting and set construction also rate special mention: Jerry Loew, Technical Director; Dean Gelber, Lighting Design; Tom Kelly, Assistant Tech. Director; Joeseph Schmidt, production manager; Charles Bowers, Stage Manager; Kris Snow, Stage Combat Consultant; Damion I. Giles, Light Operator; Jeff Zerwas, Sound operator; Stacey Jackson and Christine Valento, Stage Crew; Tina Tanabe, Prop Crew; Jay Couture, Goldie Frost, Linda Black, Costume construction. If you missed this Lakewood production – be sure to take advantage of your free student admission for the next production, “Charlotte’s Web.” This may not be Broadway but you will see some good acting and definitely will see a fine production.