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Hopewell Theatre enters ‘The Twilight Zone’

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Published: Thu, October 18, 2018 @ 12:05 a.m.




Sam Luptak Jr. has long been a fan of “The Twilight Zone” and now he is bringing the classic television series to the local stage.

The director-playwright has adapted four classic episodes of the series and will present them at Hopewell Theatre this Halloween season.

The show, a collaboration between Luptak’s Centaur Stage Productions and the Hopewell, opens Friday and runs for two weekends.

The original TV sci-fi series presented by Rod Serling ran from 1959 to 1964, but still airs daily on cable.

Serling was the somber and mysterious narrator of the anthology series. He wrote the majority of the episodes and was also the producer.

Each half-hour episode, shot in high-contrast black and white, was a spine-tingling tale of the supernatural that doubled as a morality play. The scripts often had surprise endings that exposed the consequences of human hopes and weaknesses.

With simple sets, minimal scene changes and an emphasis on dialog, each episode was also like a one-act play.

But it is only recently that the series has made the jump to the stage, and Luptak’s adaptation is among the vanguard.

The Lawrence County resident might, in fact, be the first in the nation to write and direct a faithful stage adaptation of episodes for community theater

“To my knowledge, this has never been done before,” said Luptak.

An adaptation that opened last year in London, written by Anne Washburn, blends eight episodes into one storyline, and its presentation borders on spoof.

The TV series will also get a reboot. It has been revived twice before, and the third will premiere next year on CBS All Access.

Luptak said he wanted to adapt “Twilight Zone” scripts for four or five years.

His effort got a boost from Hopewell board member Richard Smiley, who contacted the Serling family.

“[Smiley] has a passion for ‘The Twilight Zone’ too,” said Luptak. “He contacted Anne Serling [daughter of the late Rod Serling, who died in 1975], and she gave us permission to do it.”

The episodes that Luptak adapted are “Time Enough at Last,” which he calls the best-known script of the series, “Changing of the Guard,” “Monsters Are Due on Main Street” and “One for the Angels.”

Luptak directed or co-directed all four, with Ron Altemare and Lynne Patterson.

Glenn Stevens, the veteran 21 WFMJ-TV newscaster, is the narrator. Cast members include Terry Shears, Denise Sculli, Christopher Fidram, Robert Gerdes, Jenna Cintavey, Josh Bodnar, Stephen Kountz and John Dalbec.

The Hopewell stage will be kept simple and stark for “The Twilight Zone,” as in a black-box theater.

“We have a platform in the middle of the stage and bring chairs and things like that on for different settings, but most of [the scenery] happens in the imagination of the viewer,” said Luptak. “They will have to imagine streets, bank vaults, nuclear war. The stage is painted gray to give it that old TV feel, and we’re trying to keep costumes to muted dark gray and blue, with a little suggestion of red, because that was the color of the Twilight Zone logo.”

Costumes were created by Marlene Strollo.

Just like the TV series, the four one-acts are set in the 1950s and ’60s, and each runs from 20 to 25 minutes.

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