In the Zone
The Actors Collective builds on a brief but spectacular tradition.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension—a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the...show we shall refer to as That Which Cannot Be Uttered in deference to CBS’s awesome capacity for litigation.
Imagine, if you will, a theater experience born from a macabre cult television show—no, not The Outer Limits, that other macabre cult TV show—the better one. The one with the ominous opening monologues, the twist endings and the unforgettable theme song. The Actors Collective closes such a production, called This Ain’t The Outer Limits, this weekend at the Carl Cherry Center in Carmel after a two-week run.
After blowing minds with an astoundingly good but incredibly short benefit run of The Lion in Winter last year, Nina Capriola, Jeff Heyer, Chas Croslin and the rest of the Collective decided to get together and try something a little different.
“A bunch of us were sitting around talking about what we wanted to do to and it came up,” Capriola says, ever careful not to speak the name of the program. “We liked the scripts and always thought they were tightly written. The characters are so rich—I love how these people are making such ridiculous choices and it never goes the way you expect it to.”
Intrigued by the idea, Croslin did some research and discovered a small San Francisco theater company, Impossible Productions, that had been staging episodes.
“Immediately the question of rights came up,” Croslin says. “They told me they’d talked to someone at CBS and this guy had told them, ‘I can’t grant you the rights but since you’re so small if it comes across my desk I’ll bury it.’”
And so on the questionable word of some small-time actor in San Francisco, Croslin and the Actors Collective decided to tempt fate and the awesome battery of lawyers at CBS’s disposal by mounting a production of four episodes of That Which Cannot Be Uttered. As a precaution, the Collective has avoided any direct reference to the name of the program and will not charge to attend.
After much deliberation, the Collective chose four classic episodes: “Night Call” (the one where the old woman talks to her dead ex-fiance by phone); “The Chaser” (the one where the guy gives the chick a love potion that works too well); “16mm Shrine” (the Sunset Boulevard one about the old actress); and “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” (the one about aliens and suburban paranoia in 1950s America).
They’re trying to keep the set and costumes monochromatic to retain the black and white feel of the show. Croslin says there have been other challenges with transforming TV into theater.
“There are some things we have to work around. We don’t have cuts so that time/space relationship has to be communicated in a different way,” he says. “Also we don’t have close-ups. Fortunately the Cherry is a small enough venue that facial expressions are visible.”
This Sunday, on closing night, the Actors Collective will welcome local resident Lamont Johnson, who directed 15 of the original episodes, to the theater. Johnson will answer questions after the performance. Capriola says Johnson looks back on his experiences with the program as one of the highlights of a distinguished career.
“[Johnson] told me that they rehearsed [each episode] in three days from beginning to end back then,” Capriola says. “They gave the actors the script and the episode was in the can. That puts everything in perspective.”
Originally, the cast, which also includes Lari Witt, Jill Jackson, Chris Andersen, Donna Federico, Malinda Derouen, Deirdre Macauley and Nancy Bernhard, had considered bringing volunteers up from the audience to join them in an impromptu stage reading, but decided to let them be.
“We decided the possibility for disaster was too high,” Capriola says. “Plus, you want the audience to be comfortable. If you walk into a theater you don’t want to feel like you’re a mark.”
Capriola says the Actors Collective definitely has plans to produce more episodes down the road. As for now, they invite you to take a trip: You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop…That Which Cannot Be Uttered!
THIS AIN’T THE OUTER LIMITS closes this weekend with performances on Friday and Saturday at 8pm and a 7pm Sunday performance at the Carl Cherry Center, Fourth and Guadalupe, Carmel. All performances are free, though The Collective will gratefully accept donations. Seating is first come, first served. visit carlcherrycenter.org or call 624-7491.