Night Watch

My guilty pleasure is knowing what to expect—and not expect—from a community theatre, and this performance proves me right.

By Andrew Andrews

Dr. Tracey Lake (Barbara Surowitz, right) consoles Ellie Walker (Paula Lucas) in Coach House Players’ production of Lucille Fletcher’s Night Watch. Original photos by Terri Dwyer.

Ellie Wheeler has suffered from insomnia for as long as she can remember.

Looking out the window of her Manhattan townhouse early one winter morning in 1972, Ellie swears she sees a middle-aged man sitting lifeless in a chair in the abandoned tenement building behind her, with blood drooling out of his mouth.

Hysterical, Ellie insists that her husband John notify the police. But when Officer Vanelli and Detective Walker arrive and search the building, they find nothing but the dust-covered chair with no indication that anyone’s been in the apartment for a long, long time.

Over the next few scenes, we discover that Ellie was previously traumatized by the accidental death of her cheating first husband and his mistress nearly a decade earlier, and that John is having an affair with Blanche, Ellie’s long-time best friend who is living with the couple while between jobs.

Playing out like a variation of Gaslight, the cast of characters includes the wealthy couple’s suspicious German housekeeper, Helga, supposedly-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Tracey Lake, a deli-owner named Hoke, and a nosy neighbor named Appleby who wants the scoop for his local tabloid, The Kips Bay Tattler.

Katherine Reich (Helga), Lucas, Farrell Reynolds (John), Surowitz, Ken Goldfarb (Curtis Appleby), Tom Muller (Vanelli), Marilyn May (Blanche), Colleen Hack (Lt. Walker), Barbara Melzer (Director) and David Kent (Hoke).

Night Watch is one of those scripts that seems to start with an ingenious climax and then fumble its way backwards to its opening first scene, like a rough, potholed dirt road that delivers its travelers to a beautiful vista.

For some adventurous souls, the destination makes the journey worthwhile, but others would be more content seeing pictures of the view on another person’s Instagram feed.

In operation since 1950, the Coach House Players have provided community theatre to Ulster County for 71 years, and acknowledging the mediocrity of the script, the production itself aligns with my expectations for a community theatre performance.

Although most of the actors seem at least twenty years older than their characters, their dedication to presenting their best possible performance was especially evident when a bat—yes, a live batbegan flying over everyone’s heads (actors and audience included) and nobody missed a beat in rendering their lines!

Considering the mere $20 price tag (less for seniors & students!), I was impressed by the complexity of the set design, sound effects, and the actors’ ability to project. I was also pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the seats are, having been salvaged from a renovation at UPAC many years ago.

Lately, I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should rate a production based on how many minutes you should be willing to travel to make the pleasure of attending exceed the associated hassles. If that’s the case, I’d say Coach House Players’ Night Watch would satisfy a fifteen-to-twenty minute drive for most people with a “take it or leave it” mentality.

Although my partner didn’t find the destination vista as worthwhile as I did, I perceived the bumps along the way as a minor inconvenience in obtaining the reward.

3

Andrew Andrews attended Night Watch at Coach House Players in Kingston on Friday, November 12, 2021 @ 7:30pm to write this review.