The tale centers on a diverse group of survivors in the high seas after their ship has been bombed during World War II. Even though it is a period piece, the plot's examination of human nature is universal and timeless. In the hands of director George Domenick, the actors shine, bringing seemingly stock characters to nuanced life -- Eric Schuster as the tough-as-nails Kovac, David O'Leary as the seaman Stanley Garrett, Heather Steinberg as nurse Alice McKenzie, Roger Dykeman as wealthy C.J. Rittenhouse, Traci Timmons as the tragic Mrs. Higgins, Ed Walsh as the injured Gus, and Peter Dell Uomo as the chilling German. David Ryan also does a fine job with the tiny but pivotal role of the Young German in the end. The most memorable performances in a cast of great ones were by Sydia Cedano as world-renowned magazine reporter Constance Porter, who starts out larger than life only to deteriorate emotionally and physically as the play progresses, and Westley Barrington, who gives the character of Joe Spencer just the right amount of gravitas and power. Both command the stage with every line of dialogue they speak and every move they make.
The movie version featured such stars as Tallulah Bankhead and Hume Cronyn, but Runaway's cast did a commendable job of making the production their own. The set at the Bendheim Performing Arts Center in Scarsdale, New York, was simple but effective. The sound effects were perfect. Above all else, though, the story was the ultimate draw -- based on Steinbeck's original tale and Jo Swerling's screenplay, the plot is full of unexpected twists and turns from the very first moments right up until the final curtain. To elaborate any further would spoil all the fun for anyone who hasn't had a chance to see it.
The production's dramaturg, Elliott George Robinson, deserves a lot of credit and praise for helping to bring this show to life. The only bad news is that the run was one weekend only. If this and other shows I've seen by the Runaway Theater Group is any indication of their entertainment value, I eagerly await more productions from them.