Review: '13 Past Midnight' Offers Edge-of-Your-Seat Suspense

by Joe Siegel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday May 9, 2022

The cast of "13 Past Midnight"
The cast of "13 Past Midnight"  (Source:Jeanne Smith.)

Attleboro Community Theatre has brought a bit of murder and madness to the stage with "13 Past Midnight," a fun but familiar tale of people stuck in a house with a killer roaming the halls.

Agatha Christie came up with the same concept in "And Then There Were None." That story was about a group of strangers gathered on an island who are bumped off one at a time.

In "13 Past Midnight," the potential murder victims are a group of daytime soap opera actors, summoned to the palatial estate of Victor Winslow (an outstanding Paul Oliver), the mega-wealthy producer of "Hold Back The Night."

The show's ratings are slipping, and Victor announces his plan to let go some of the actors and creative staff, including the vengeful head writer Eve (Bailey Stearns) and Gary, the director (Steven Taschereau).

Victor requires all his guests to play a game called "13 Past Midnight." He provides them with a variety of instruments: Guns, a knife, and a bottle of poison. A dummy is used as Victor's stand-in. From what I understand, whoever is shown to have killed the dummy first wins the game.

Of course, the game doesn't go as planned, and Victor is dead before the end of Act One. Who killed him and why?

There are plenty of suspects, including Victor's soon to be ex-wife Katheryn (Lori Perry), a film actress who sacrificed her career for love; dimwitted Zara (Rachel Raposa), Victor's mistress and actress on the soap; Victor's cook Maureen (Lisa Forsgard), the butler Durwood (Tom Rafferty), and maid Brenda (a likable Emily Partington).

Director Jeanne Smith, working from a script by Billy St. John, masterfully juggles more than dozen characters with conflicting motives. The result is a funny and entertaining mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the killer or killers to be revealed.

Standouts in the large cast include Marissa Simas as gossip columnist Lila, who cheerfully revels in the dirt she can dish on the goings-on behind the scenes of the soap opera.

Austin Venditelli ("Picasso at the Lapin Agile") shines as a private investigator who has been hired to serve as a consultant for Victor's game show. The way he shuffles around like Columbo as he flirts with Brenda and digs for clues is utterly charming.

Richard Griffin excels as the bumbling actor Skyler, who's terrified at the sight of blood. Skyler and co-star Toni's (Lydia Mattera) unsuccessful attempts to kill the dummy Victor include a misadventure with a potted plant. The physical comedy is well executed (no pun intended).

The set design, by Smith and David Blessinger, is magnificent. The action takes place in a living room that is posh and stylish. It's the perfect setting for backstabbing and secrets.

"13 Past Midnight" could have gone wrong in so many ways. The impeccable talent of the technical crew and the performers made this production a sheer delight.

"13 Past Midnight" runs through May 22. Attleboro Community Theatre. 71 North Main Street, Attleboro, MA. For tickets, visit attleborocommunitytheatre.net.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.