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The witty gothic Americana of ‘Dead Ringer’

“Dead Ringer,” as performed in the black box theater in Lansing Community College's Gannon Building, features authentic vintage Americana, Yankee wit and Hollywood gothic terror.

“Dead Ringer” is Mary Matzke’s last directorial work before she retires from LCC after 30 years of teaching theater. Her final choice is a script set in Texas circa 1879 written by Gino Dilorio. It starts with intrigue, progresses into bellicosity and shifts from tenderness to creepiness. The story unfolds like a decaying flower.

The elaborate Western ranch set, designed by Robert Fernholz, is impressive for a Black Box setting. It includes a realistic, full size homestead front and porch. A climbable embankment rises to stage right. At its base is a formidable dungeon with a thick door equipped with bars. It’s a perfect setting for a Zane Grey meets Edgar Allan Poe styled yarn.

“Dead Ringer” is about a deformed woman who mostly stays hidden in this rustic prison. Dakota Kruse masters the eerie and droll voice of Mary Cole. Kruse cruises through wisecracks, bursts of laughter, period banter, sweet singing and creepy talk with style and ease.

Joey Wojda is Dwight Foley, a cowboy that stumbles upon Mary and is enchanted by her chatter. Besides having accurate cowboy gear designed by Chelle Peterson, Wojda seems perfectly suited for his part. With a dense beard and cow-pokey mannerisms, he fits the role of a softie is who is more a handyman than a ranch hand.

Michael Boxleitner aptly plays Tyrus Cole, Mary’s cantankerous caretaker brother. His role calls for a lot of yelling and aggression, and Boxleitner makes his average frame seem ominous. Everyone shouts frequently in “Dead Ringer” and loud gunshots are common. Less often, characters speak softly, or through dungeon bars and are difficult to hear.

The cast convincingly conveys Western accents and keeps them consistent. The performances also grew on me, as their characters became more exposed during the onehour-45 minute-with-intermission play.

“Dead Ringer” has dead spots, but also has many elements that ring of professionalism. The play can amuse, irritate, fascinate and shock with moments of child-like wonder, adult swearing and a teen film ending.

“Dead Ringer” $10

Friday, Oct. 5, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, 8 p.m. Gannon Black Box 422 N. Washington Sq., Lansing (517) 483-1546 www.lcc.edu


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