By Debbi K. Swanson
Theater Palisades’ production of “Pack of Lies” uses predominantly professional cast members, and they work wonders with Hugh Whitemore’s drama of deception.
Director, Michael Macready has also helped to instill life, energy and depth to this predominantly true story of possible betrayal during the Cold War.
It’s 1960-61, and Bob and Barbara Jackson have been enjoying the friendship of Peter and Helen Kroger for five years, with Helen and Barbara becoming best friends. Julie Jackson, the teen-age daughter, is so close to Helen she calls her “Aunt.”
Enter a Scotland Yard investigator, Mr. Stewart. He asks to impose on the Jacksons by placing an observer in the house to see if a suspected criminal, Mr. Lansdale, meets with someone in the neighborhood in the next few days. The Jacksons don’t realize the severity of the case until suspicion is cast on their friends, the Krogers.
What is inherent in this production is an insight into the mood of the times, especially considering the recent political changes. In lesser hands, this play can seem irrelevant.
Not so here, perhaps because the cast rises above the main plot premise to the broader issues of friendship and the effects of suspicion and deception on the vulnerable.
The standout roles belong to Cissy Wellman as the likable, boisterous and bawdy Helen, Marta Kristen as the kind and emotionally constricted Barbara and Stephen Mendel as the sly, not-as-considerate-as-he-seems Mr. Stewart, who puts the Jacksons through hoops.
All deliver a credible, real performance, especially in their monologues. Tricia Kelly is appealing as Julie, and Alice Champlin commands the role of Thelma, one of the unwelcome observers.
Paul Seibel’s set and costumes are even better than his acting as the milquetoast Peter. There’s a small set flaw in the divider between foyer and living room that blocks some audience members’ view, but it’s not a critical location for action.
As usual at Theater Palisades, sound effects are not ovetooked, with the sound of rain adding that extra sensory input for reality’s sake. Lighting is also well executed with detailed touches in the working living room sconces.
PACK OF LIES, written by Hugh Whitemore, directed by Michael Macready, set design and costumes by Paul Seibel, lighting design by Chistopher Hancock, B J. Mernoiz, sound design by Lee Medley, Pat Severson. at Theater Palisades, Sunset and Temescal Canyon at Haverford, Pacific Palisades. Performances at 8 p.m. Fn.-Sat., 3 p.m. Sun. through May 26. Tickets: $9 adults. $7 senior, $4 students.
Bob Jackson - Lloyd
Barbara Jackson - Marta Kristen
Julie Jackson - Tricia Kelly
Helen Kroger - Cissy Wellman
Peter Kroger - Paul Seilbel
Mr. Stewart - Stephen Mendel