THE LIGHT FANTASTIC at Road Less Traveled summons up horror, laughter, super(natural) special effects, and superb acting

THE BASICS:  THE LIGHT FANTASTIC, a play by Ike Holter, co-directed by Scott Behrend and John Hurley, assisted by Mike Doben, presented by Road Less Traveled Productions, starring Leah Berst, Melinda Capeles, Diane DiBernardo, Alejandro Gabriel Gómez, Greg Howze, Ricky Needham, and Davida Evette Tolbert.  Thu – Sat at 7:30, Sun at 2:00 (Mighty Taco Student Thursday tickets only $10) RLTP theater is at 456 Main Street, Buffalo (716) 629-3069

Runtime: 100 minutes without intermission

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  Grace is a bitch, always has been, but she’s cute and Eddie is smitten so he’s happy she’s back in town crashing at his house in rural Indiana.  But karma is also a bitch and one dark night Grace is about to come face to face with her own fate as she holds the awful fates of others in her hands. And we’re about to find out just how awful a person she really is.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION:  Ever since I “discovered” Leah Berst in her senior year at UB in the lead role in MY FAIR LADY, I’ve been a fan.  I’ve seen her in new play workshops, in other plays and musicals (even starring in a one-woman show at MusicalFare) and she always dives right in 100%.  But here, as Grace, she outdoes herself with subtle acting skills that take her performance to a whole other level.

Actors inspire each other, and there’s a ton of talent on stage for this production, each person, I’m sure, raising the bar for the others, including the protean Davida Evette Tolbert as Harriet, the police officer who investigates Grace’s weird complaints and delivers a show-stopping monologue.  Talk about show-stoppers, Greg Howze as the simultaneously hilarious and terrifying Rufus outdoes anything I’ve seen him in before (except maybe his role in RLTP’s THE MOTHERF*CKER WITH THE HAT which was iconic).

All the other superb actors have graced this stage before as well, including Diane DiBernardo as Fiona, a funny role as Grace’s mother; Ricky Needham as Adam, Fiona’s goofy doctor/boyfriend; Melinda Capeles as Katrina, an unsettling presence; and Alejandro Gabriel Gómez as the long-suffering Eddie. 

Mother-daughter chat with Diane DiBernardo and Leah Berst

L-R Ricky Needham, Leah Berst, Diane DiBernardo, Alejandro Gomez

L-R Ricky Needham, Diane DiBernardo, Davida Evette Tolbert, Alejandro Gomez
Photos by Gina Gandolfo

The special effects are, well, special and we can thank that trio of terror Set Designer Collin Ranney, Sound Designer Katie Menke, and Light Designer/Special Effects, John Rickus.  The costumes by Maura Price are inspired, and the props by Diane Almeter Jones are (as usual) believable, as are the quite realistic fight scenes directed by Shelby Converse.

Does it take three directors (Co-directors Scott Behrend and John Hurley along with Assistant Director Mike Doben) to make THE LIGHT FANTASTIC fantastic? I believe it. Does it take three stage managers to pull this off (Sarah Foote assisted by Amber Greer and Darren Valdera)? Obviously, it does. All of this is to say that the attention to detail is impressive.

END NOTE: When (not if) you go (and I’m going to go back a second time) you may want to know about Malört which is (at least the props version is) booze consumed on stage. I asked Leah Berst why the face everyone makes when they drink it and she told me that it’s disgusting. So I looked it up and found that The Chicago Sun-Times (the playwright’s hometown newspaper) wrote about it last year: “Love it or hate it, Malört is Chicago’s drink. Throwing back a shot of the bitter liquor [flavored with wormwood] is practically a rite of passage for many. If you stay long enough at any Chicago dive bar, you’re likely to see people order a Chicago Handshake: a shot of Malört with an Old Style [brand] beer.” I didn’t ask if they had it at the bar. I was afraid I might be challenged to drink it.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

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