His daughter has just been accepted to Oxford. His son is enrolled in the kind of public school that produces the country’s Prime Ministers. He himself has been invited to become a director in the company he works for.
It is all going superbly for Richard Medway. Until the night in 1958 that he drives into London from his home in the suburbs for a reunion with the men of his old rugby team. A very liquid reunion.
When he wobbles out of the club later that night he is accompanied by two men that he had agreed to drop off at their respective homes. All would have gone well if he had just dropped them off, but unfortunately, the second drop-off insisted that he come in for a nightcap. And so it was much later, and a much drunker Richard, who finally wended his weary way home.
The intrigue that follows is deftly depicted in R.C. Sheriff’s 1960 play “A Shred of Evidence,” now being presented at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills.
David Hunt Stafford as Richard and Alison Blanchard as his wife Laura are very quickly drawn into a horrific situation. Listening to the radio the morning after the rugby reunion they learn of a hit-and-run accident that took place at the very time when Richard was driving erratically home along that same dark country road.
The man who was hit and killed was riding a bicycle. His wife, riding behind him on her own bicycle, was witness to the accident but could provide little in the way of clues. The clues, however, are filled in, one by one, as Richard soon discovers that the bumper on his car is banged up and has a large streak of newly added green paint along its side.
Shortly after that, a police inspector shows up to question Richard about his activities of the night before. Since Richard doesn’t remember any of it, he makes up a plausible story which, unhappily, keeps snowballing into more elaborate made-up stories that eventually convince him and Laura that he is, indeed, guilty of the hit-and-run accident.
What makes the tragedy even more horrible for him is the fact that he has a police record, acquired many years earlier, of two minor DUIs. Now he fears that his previous “record,” if it should become known, coupled with the current dilemma, will cost him not only his upcoming directorship, but his longtime job as well.
And so the plot thickens.
While the “mystery” is very typically British, it is engrossing and fun because of the earnest performances of its actors. David Hunt Stafford and Alison Blanchard are particularly brilliant, as are John Wallace Combs as the Medways’ friend and family lawyer and John Daniel Lench as the inspector.
The cast of nine are nicely directed by multi-award-winning director Jules Aaron, who also serves as the head of the MFA Directing Program at the California Institute of the Arts.
Mention must also be made of the lush setting by set designer Jeff G. Rack. His family living room is filled with large landscape paintings and attractive wooden accoutrements, and enhanced by Ric Zimmerman’s warm lighting design. And thus Theatre 40 has provided an absorbing adventure for its audience. As usual.