Review: ‘Stage Struck’

  • Kraig Swartz and Charles Weinstein in "Stage Struck" at the Peterborough Players. Photos by Eric Rothhaus

  • Lisa Bostnar and Nicholas Wilder in “Stage Struck” at the Peterborough Players. Photos by Eric Rothhaus—

  • Kraig Swartz and Charles Weinstein in “Stage Struck” at the Peterborough Players. Photos by Eric Rothhaus

The Reviewer’s Chair
Published: 2/11/2019 6:19:02 PM

Ridiculous and witty, shocking and strange, Simon Gray’s comedic thriller “Stage Struck” is bizarre in its design and wonderful in its execution. In essence, this is a murder mystery where instead of a whodunit, it’s a great game of why have they done it and who is really dead.

The set up is simple: We open on the living room of Robert and Anne, an ex-stage manager and a famed West End actress respectively, are married but not entirely happy. When the topic of unhappiness arises and fingers are pointed, the pair find their marriage, and what little happiness was tied to it, coming to an end. Anne points Robert in the way of a shrink she’s been seeing, Widdecombe, who intervenes disastrously. Meanwhile, the Australian man living in Robert and Anne’s cottage, Herman, struggles with being in love with a married woman. It’s funny, it’s simple, it works.

The real fun, however, comes in watching Robert go mad. From his point of view, he’s taking revenge, with the clever employ of tricks he’s learned from his past in the theatre. From everyone else’s eyes he’s sick in the head, completely and utterly beyond reason and intervention. Whichever view you see it from, and there’s an opportunity for both given the nature of each character’s duality, this is a darkly funny display of self-destruction and greed that attempts to answer the question: How far would one person go to get what they want?

The company, of course, is tremendously talented. Kraig Swartz, as always, is wonderful as Robert who’s funny and gentle one moment, manic and deranged the very next. Lisa Bostnar, as Anne, is delightfully cunning and sharply witted, very much the epitome of the self-concerned actress. Nicholas Wilder, in his debut at the Peterborough Players, is a hilarious delight to see as Herman, playing the fool who’s smarter than he seems. Charles Weinstein is simply divine as Widdecombe, a deeply sympathetic and honest man who becomes involved in Robert’s game in a way he never expected. Altogether, they bring a truly memorable story, rife with seemingly endless bouts of twists and turns, to life.

A silly revenge plot has a chance of being overdone or repetitive in nature, but in “Stage Struck” we see a new angle to such a familiar front wherein our leading man takes it far beyond any point of recovery, tethering just at the edge of breaking the fourth wall but never quite doing so.

In three words, “Stage Struck” is complex, appalling, and witty. Directed by Charles Morey and playing through Feb. 17 at the Peterborough Players, this is truly one show you have to experience for yourself.

Tickets are available at or at the box office, 603-924-7585. The Peterborough Players is located at 55 Hadley Road in Peterborough.

Cheyenne Heinselman is an actress and a playwright, a member of the International Thespian Society Troupe #7883, as well as an avid and opinionated supporter of the arts.


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