Make sure to track down the Hunter

November 3, 2011

A Child Shall Lead Them: Making The Night of The Hunter is a play that makes you feel like you’ve just watched a movie.
The play is based on the production of the 1955 film The Night of the Hunter, directed by Charles Laughton, a commercial failure that is now considered a piece of classic cinema. In the film, a preacher and a condemned thief share a prison cell. After the priest is released from prison, he returns to his cellmate’s family to find some hidden money, which the thief’s children were sworn to hide.
Off-screen (and on stage) Laughton is having his own problems with a druggy actor and a behind schedule and over-budget production. His producer is doubting the marketability of the film as it moves in a progressive direction
The play is a coproduction organized by Georgetown’s Department of Performing Arts and the University of Maryland-College Park School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies. Students, staff, and faculty are from both universities, commuting 10 miles to rehearsal during rush hour. The play ambitiously juggles its two separate plotlines along with envelope-pushing film projections.
The whole play takes place on a movie set, and during scenes where the movie is filmed, the production is projected in real time on the back of the stage. The acknowledgement of the setting makes the idea of  “sets“ in the film segments of the story more believable.
The projections, a key aspect of the play, were designed by Jared Mezzochi. who also worked on The Glass Menagerie, a production for Tennessee Williams Centennial Festival last March. Director and writer Derek Goldman trasnforms Mezzochi’s projections from an interesting novelty into a central part of the production.
The play opens with Laughton, played by Dan Hrebenak (SFS ’12), entering the stage and addressing the audience. Soon, period Laughton footage is projected over all the set. As the monologue continues, live footage of the actor’s face is superimposed over Laughton’s, until it’s only Hrebenak’s.
Through the rest of the play, scenes from the film, along with actors performing the scenes live, are projected onto anything that can be turned into a screen, such as held up blankets and the sliding warehouse walls. The projections lit up the Gonda Theater like a dynamic movie theater.
A Child Shall Lead Them is an innovative production that blurs the line between the making of a film and performance, and it features stellar showings by Hrebenak, Justin McCarthy (COL ’12), and UMD’s Robert Mitchum. The play runs through November 6 at the Gonda Theater, and will run at College Park from November 12-19.

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