“My Neighbor, the Monster” is a curiosity. Written and directed by local playwright Brian Kral, the premiere is an excellent production of a confused script.
It’s an homage to the films of the likes of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Those movies feel as if they had nothing more on their mind but entertainment. But Kral’s painfully slow two-hour (with intermission) children’s show seems more concerned with explaining things, lecturing and moralizing than entertaining. This is a terribly cerebral story that doesn’t seem to understand the appeal of the genre it’s trying to pay tribute to.
Timmy (Joey Hines) is a teenager working at a movie house in late-1960s Boulder City. He and friends Joey (Grant Nordine) and Molly (Molly Rautenstrauch) are convinced a vampire lives in that weird house on that dark street.
The “monster” (Jay Neal) turns out to be a kind, elderly man named Karel who was a Hollywood bit player in some classic scary movies. A bond forms between Timmy and Karel that results in the boy learning some valuable life lessons.
Kral as director achieves a rare sense of spontaneity from his expert 10-member cast. Neal’s Karel (and his Dracula impersonation) is alternately cartoonish and human. We believe this character has the soul of an actor and the weariness and wisdom of an old man.
Hines gives Timmy an earnestness that makes us interested in his quest to do the right thing.
Joe Maloney does a mean Peter Lorre, and he’s amazingly off-the-cuff in a second role as Karel’s insensitive grandson.
Mary Alice Brunod-Burack has a hilarious turn as a robotic, chirping monster mate, and John Jacobson is her perfectly suited companion as Frankenstein’s creation.
Kris Van Riper’s set gives us the chummy atmosphere of an intimate neighborhood theater, as well as the spookiness of Karel’s environment. Jody Caley’s lights enhance the physical environment in sometimes subtle, sometimes conspicuously beautiful, always appropriate ways.
But the script makes everyone’s chores an uphill battle. A good hunk of the dramatic action is Karel’s growing relationship with Timmy, and it consists of many speeches imparting information about chiller flicks’ glory days. The play feels like a dissertation. And that’s about as far from the spirit of chiller flicks as you can get.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.REVIEW
What: “MY NEIGHBOR, THE MONSTER”
When: 7 P.M. THURSDAY-SATURDAY; 2 P.M. SATURDAY AND SUNDAY
Where: REED WHIPPLE MAIN THEATRE, 821 LAS VEGAS BLVD. NORTH
Tickets: $3-$7 (229-6553)