StageSceneLA – IT IS DONE is an “edge-of-your-seat chiller”

Sparks fly in the most horrifyingly unexpected of ways in a seedy bar ninety miles from nowhere in Alex Goldberg’s edge-of-your-seat chiller It Is Done, the risk-taking latest from Beverly Hills’ venerable Theatre 40.

It’s a dark and wind-stormy wintry night outside the nearly deserted Route 193 whiskey joint where paunchy bartender Hank (Kurtis Bedord) finds himself with nothing better to do than pleasure himself to a dogeared girlie mag and hang up the phone on a nagging ex-wife (the better to go on with the former).

Then, into this godforsaken watering hole stumbles Jonas (George Villas), a brooding, bearded stranger seeking shelter from the storm and not in any mood to chitchat with Hank, despite the bartender’s best efforts to engage him in conversation.

Before long, however, a third character has arrived to complete the trio, the seductive Ruby (Kate Whitney), a sexily clad honey blonde with car trouble who seems none too happy about having to spend the next ninety minutes cooped up with a horny barkeep (that’s what she insists on calling Hank) and a surly stranger.

Eventually, however, a bet between the two men gets the three strangers to talking (if not particularly bonding) and Jonas to revealing the nightmarish reason he’s been on the run, the first but hardly the most shocking of the secrets and lies playwright Goldberg has yet to reveal in a world about to turn Twilight Zone with a bit of David Cronenberg thrown in for terrifying measure.

Under the razor-sharp direction of Jeff G. Rack (who’s done a terrific job of transforming Bus Stop’s roadside diner set into a considerably darker-hued drinking establishment), It Is Done reunites Whitney and Villas in roles so different from their Scenie-winning comedic turns in last summer’s Screwball Comedy, you might not guess it was the same two Theatre 40 stars.

A Southern drawl dripping like molasses from her lips and legs packed tight in curve-revealing leather pants, Whitney gives Hollywood’s sultriest femmes fatales a run for their money as the playful, dismissive, testy, mysterious, seductive, downright devilish Ruby.

As darkly enigmatic in It Is Done as he was elegantly debonair in Screwball Comedy, Villas once again proves himself one of the most interesting, watchable actors in town, his scenes opposite Whitney positively crackling with the prospect of danger, though from whom it might come is anyone’s guess.

Last but not least, Bedford channels Jack Black to raunchy, uncouth perfection as barkeep Hank.

Brandon Baruch lights Rack’s set with dramatic flair and flashes of flaming red, costume designer Michèle Young gives each character a just-right look, and hair-wig-&-makeup designer gives Ruby a do that will ring nostalgic with Captain and Tennille fans.

Sound designer Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski’s danger-enhancing effects place us in the middle of a raging windstorm as his original music and some Hank Williams on the jukebox ups the suspense.

It Is Done is produced by David Hunt Stafford. Don Solosan is stage manager. Rebecca Driscoll is assistant director.

Tops in L.A. at reviving classic period comedies and Agatha Christie-style mystery thrillers, Theatre 40 is even better when taking risks with edgy contemporary pieces like Late Company, Sequence, and now It Is Done.

Terrific performances and some gasp-worthy twists make Alex Goldberg’s excursion into the outer limits one of T40’s best.

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