‘The Abduction’ at Apollo Civic Theatre

The Abduction, opening this weekend at the Apollo Civic Theatre, is an adrenaline-filled thriller with crisp staging and impressive performances from a talented ensemble cast.

Brian Terrell, Sandra DeRocha, and Megan West. Photo by Adam Blackstock.
Brian Terrell, Sandra DeRocha, and Megan West. Photo by Adam Blackstock.

Fantastically directed by J.D. Wine and written by Billy St. John, The Abduction is a modern day thriller. After celebrating her parent’s anniversary, college student Cindy is forced off the road while driving back to school during a thunderstorm and abducted. Her mysterious abductor communicates, disguised through a voice synthesizer, with her family via phone messages as the abduction is occurring. Cindy’s parents, Allen and Sheila, struggle to raise the kidnapper’s ransom by the looming deadline while Cindy’s boyfriend and a family friend try to help the family with rescue plans before time runs out.

Henry Becker is very impressive in a minor role as the family’s accountant and close friend, Jonathon Mueller. Becker adds a great layer of emotional depth and doesn’t overdo what could have been a one-dimensional character role in lesser hands. Director J.D. Wine also has a hilarious cameo role as Jonathon’s partner, Lee, an offstage voice communicating with the family throughout the ordeal through a series of fabulously flamboyant phone conversations.

As an alcoholic mother pushed to the breaking point during her daughter’s abduction, Sandra DeRocha conveys the fragility and instability of her character, Sheila, very well. Though a tad bit too saccharine in the opening scenes, DeRocha quickly cracked through her opening facade by displaying a nervous, fragile character constantly on the brink of instability and driven to drink by her past guilt. Megan West does an excellent job as bouncy, determined, college girl Cindy. Though she has the least amount of stage time as the victim of the off-stage abduction, she has an excellent opportunity to showcase her outstanding acting range.

Rennes Carbaugh is fantastic as Cindy’s boyfriend, Britt Phillips. He is very natural and charismatic as a college aged student, with enough powerful outbursts to show his devotion and concern for his abducted girlfriend. One of the best moments of the production occurs ater in Act II, as Carabaugh and Brian Terrell’s character, Allen Grant, had a man-to-man discussion involving making decisions with the head versus the heart. The acting was phenomenal in a tense moment and finely showcased the two talented cast members.

The true standout of the cast was Brian Terrell as mystery writer Allen Grant. Faced with the daunting task of carrying the most lines and stage business of all the cast members, Terrell more than rises to the challenge. With an instantly believable character and natural ease onstage, Terrell was exceptional at showing the full range of emotions as a devastated parent trying to raise the kidnapper’s ransom by the appointed deadline, hold his fragile wife together and take control of a nerve wracking situation, all while keeping his terrific angry outbursts and fits of rage just below the boiling point.

Brian Terrell and Rennes Carbaugh. Photo by  Adam Blackstock.
Brian Terrell and Rennes Carbaugh. Photo by Adam Blackstock.

Regarding show’s script, there was far too much information crammed too quickly into the show’s opening scene, and there was a very abrupt end for Act I. Also, there were some technical issues at my performance which I am confident will be rectified quickly. The abductor, an offstage voice disguised by a voice synthesizer, was only heard through the theater’s speaker system. The phone conversations featuring the abductor were sometimes hard to understand because of the amount of bass volume in the vocal synthesizer pattern, and certain words in some of the messages were too low to understand clearly, leading to some confusion regarding the dialogue in the phone conversations.

With so much focus on the frantic phone calls and plans for action, the costumes, lighting and one-piece set are kept fairly simple, to minimize distractions from the action. The costumes, all provided by the cast, are simple, modern day outfits, including suits, hoodies, dresses and clothing appropriate to each character. Lighting, designed by Justin Hancock, is very simple to allow the focus to remain on the story. Special lighting effects used to simulate the thunderstorm at the beginning of the show were very impressive. The set, a  richly upholstered study, designed by Robert Fuegi and J.D. Wine, is gorgeous and very tastefully decorated with modern artwork, bookshelves and lovely French doors

Apollo Civic Theatre’s The Abduction is a fantastic thriller performed by a very talented cast.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with one intermission.

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The Abduction plays through February 1, 2015 at Apollo Civic Theatre – 128 East Martin Street, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. For tickets, call the box office at (304) 263-6766, or purchase them at the door

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