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Pulp fiction sensibility in ‘Scotland Road’

There are dubious elements in “Scotland Road.” After all, a hoax about a living, 200 year-old man frozen in ice, and a tabloid story about a Titanic disaster survivor, inspired Jeffery Hatcher’s play. The result is a “Scotland Road” that seems to mix “Ripley’s Believe it or Not,” a “Twilight Zone” episode, and a comic book about the supernatural.

Yes, there are parts of the Riverwalk Theatre production that are as believable as unicorns from the Emerald City that yodel Caribbean waltzes. And yes, “Scotland Road” is also truly mysterious, intriguing and engaging.

Part of the play’s appeal is an intentional cloudiness and the way it forces the audience — with plenty of foreshadowing — to figure out what lies behind the fogginess. To divulge specifics of “Scotland Road’s” plot would spoil the discoveries.

Act I is unlike the second. “Scotland Road” begins with Jeff Magnuson, utterly convincing as the annoying and domineering John — one who becomes somewhat annoying to watch because we do not understand his motives.

In the second act, Magnuson is mesmerizing when John dramatically and emotionally exposes more about himself and his motivations.

In the second act, Cassie Little also becomes more “expressive.” In the role of “The Woman,” Little does a lot to convey a character that starts as the prey and ends as the aggressor.

With facial movements that look authentic, and a reliable Welsh accent, Little seems perfect for the role.

Gini Larson plays the not-always-as-she-seems Dr. Halbrech with apparent ease. My affections for the doctor faded, but my admiration of Larson’s acting never wavered. A brief appearance by Janet Lockwood as Frances Kittle was long enough to enjoy her part and performance.

As far as I could tell, Mark Polzin as Dane, and Steven Wulfekuhler as Kaspar, never missed a line. As incidental attendants — thanks to coaching by Sadonna Croff — they spoke only with American Sign Language. Their crafty expressions, however, were universally understood.

I found it harder to understand why a shutoff camera was never restarted, why a lower-class person would wear a diamond tiara, why Kittle wasn’t cast as a man, in what way an astonishing find was abducted, and how the elaborate hiding place was built so quickly. And I am still confused by an ending that I hoped would have more of a long-awaited twist.

Set design by Leroy Cupp and director, Bob Robinson — with help from Tom Ferris — is much more than a vague structure for the audience to imagine as real. The set includes tangible walls, baseboards, fancy doors and linoleum flooring. Props like a realistic newspaper, deck blanket, and thermostat by Miranda Hartman are refined trimmings.

Thunderous sounds by Darryl Schmitz, atmospheric lighting by Ted Daniel, and projections by Matt Ottinger help make “Scotland Road” more of a show. Robinson’s direction keeps it professional and classy.

To conclude this review with the same clarity as Hatcher’s play sometimes has, I say, “It is always sometimes better to be overneath corduroy upsideout in the chilly heat.”

“Scotland Road” $10 adults, $8 children

Through May 20 7 p.m. Thursday 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday 2 p.m. Sunday Riverwalk Theatre/ Community Circle Players 228 Museum Drive, Lansing (517) 482-5700


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