Review: Island Theater Company offers laughs, howls, terror in 'It's A Scream'

'Miss Borden, please!'  Barry Anderson attempts to keep a little distance from his mother Angella Anderson's character. The two are appearing in the Island Theater Company production of 'It's A Scream!' at the Rose History Auditorium. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

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"Miss Borden, please!" Barry Anderson attempts to keep a little distance from his mother Angella Anderson's character. The two are appearing in the Island Theater Company production of "It's A Scream!" at the Rose History Auditorium. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

What: Comic spoof of 1930s & '40s horror films

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 13

Where: Rose History Auditorium at the Marco Island Historical Museum, 180 South Heathwood Dr., Marco Island

Cost: $20 adults, $10 children

Information: theateronmarco.com

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— It was a dark and stormy night.

A laugh rang out.

Then a scream.

Thunder rattled. Winds howled. The audience jumped in fear.

It might not be Halloween just yet, but the Island Theater Company offers up a frightfully good time at their season opener, comic horror spoof "It's A Scream."

Anytime the audience leaps out of their seats (as they did Friday night) before the show even starts, you know you're in for a treat. Special effects dominate this breezy romp through 1930s and '40s fright films. Flickering candles, wispy lights, wax monsters, spooky seances, ghostly spirits - even a creepy housekeeper dressed in black - all combine to create an atmosphere of frightful delight!

Here's the plot, if you care. Penny-pinching studio chief Spencer Pierce (Barry Anderson, superb in his debut) visits aging star Alexander Moreau (suitably grand Kip Jones) to fire him. Moreau wagers that he can convince Pierce that old-school horror still packs a punch. The bet, with Moreau's job on the line, is on!

David DeBoy's serviceable (if pedestrian) script serves up a valentine to B-grade horror films. Director Pat Berry lavishes proper attention to the material with creepy sound cues and stupendously silly characters. The show reeks of backlot MGM products cranked out by dozens by lovers of glorious, goofy gore.

If "It's A Scream" falls a bit short, it owes mostly to a yawning script that gains traction only in the last 15 minutes. The troupe's makeshift home at the Marco Island Historical Museum also creates a limited opportunity for elaborate sets, although Craig Jones and Tom Tapscott pack a lot of surprises (trick doors, hidden panels) into a small space. I do wish the set had taken advantage of the theme a bit more - going either full gothic horror or classic kitsch.

I also wish Berry had prodded some members of her amateur cast to go even farther over the top in their roles to mimic the truly bad campy style of over-acting found in the so-bad-it's-good schlockfests of the era. Sound effects alone can't compensate for the stiffness; especially in this fun, funny spoof, more would have been even better.

Anderson makes a charming debut as the tight-fisted studio head. Berry asks him to play the role as a full-on geeky nerd, complete with high-pitched squeal, coltish manners and glasses falling down his nose. He wrestles with monsters in the closet, crawls the floor looking for hidden wires and screams in terror. You'll love him.

Angella Anderson, Barry Anderson's real-life mother, joins her son on stage as actress Elizabeth Borden ("Lizzie to her friends"). Having hitched a ride to beg for a job, Angella Anderson's Borden faces possession, a seance gone badly wrong, a rogue monster with a knife and the unwanted attentions of Maxie the chauffeur. All this she accomplishes in four-inch heels, a gold satin dress, the cutest blonde curls and baby-doll voice you'll see all week.

Veteran Judy Daye adds spice as cranky (or creepy, take your pick) housekeeper Maria Louisa Yocknestor. Her fractious Yocknestor comes with signature theme music - cue the organ - and a bellowing accent. Gary Grant chips in comic timing as Pierce's bemused and befuddled chauffeur Maxie. Kip Jones creates icy elegance and dramatic flair as film star Alexander Moreau.

Cheryl Knudsen's props add a layer of depth and realism to the show. Look especially for the kooky touches like a horse's head, odd sculptures and more. Weird and wacky candelabra add a spooky vibe to the lobby and entrance doors. Debbie Pinizzotto's costumes prove serviceable, but I wish she'd amped up the color palette in places, especially for the wonderful and strange inhabitants of Moreau Mansion.

Looking for thrills, chills and that sensation of something creeping up behind you? Want to jump out of your seat in terror - and laugh in the next moment? The Island Players have a "Scream" for you. Don't miss the Anderson's mother-son comedy duo or Judy Daye's high-tempered, high-fright housekeeper.

What's your favorite scary movie? Email me, csilk@naplesnews.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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