Review: THE LIGHT FANTASTIC at Road Less Traveled Theater

Superb Cast Tells a Dark Comedy of Redemption

By: Feb. 23, 2024
Review: THE LIGHT FANTASTIC at Road Less Traveled Theater
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It's not often that  a horror story or the supernatural takes to the stage, so when a comedy turns dark, you know you're in for a night of the unknown. Ike Holter's play THE LIGHT FANTASTIC is full of surprises, twists and turns that kept the opening night audience engrossed in Road Less Traveled Productions latest production.

The company is celebrating it's 20th Anniversary and they continue to program plays that are either new or  seldom seen, but universally thought provoking.  THE LIGHT FANTASTIC, co-directed by  Scott Behrend and John Hurley, can be comically coarse and eerily spooky.

The action takes place in a big old house in rural Indiana. A very unlikable Grace has summoned the local cop to investigate some strange noises in the house. Her on again, off again boyfriend Eddie owns the house, which she uses whenever she needs a place to go. Mostly estranged from her mother, Grace is convinced something is looming in the house. When an intruder is later found, the story gets juicy, and the cantankerous Grace must face  her demons, literally and figuratively. Think FARGO meets STRANGER THINGS.

Review: THE LIGHT FANTASTIC at Road Less Traveled Theater
​​​​Greg Howze and Leah Berst

Grace has a long history of bad behavior, using Eddie, verbally abusing a  past fellow high school student ( who turns out to be the cop she summons), and choosing to ignore her own mother.  Just as Holter firmly establishes her character, she is confronted with death. How and if she will receive redemption makes up the remainder of the one act play, with heavy influences of Goethe's Faust story, albeit with a modern day horror story twist.

Leah Berst gives an astounding performance as Grace, a wholly miserable woman.  Her abject fear, contempt and desperation is felt throughout, without a hint of melodrama. She is on a ride that puts her on the edge of life, but her nuanced portrayal makes it all the more difficult to feel sympathy towards her character.

Greg Howze is an energetic powerhouse as the home invader who later takes  on the role of the Lucifer himself. Howze shines in his frenetic take as the burglar who is acting erratic, either from  horrible pain or from being possessed. But his gleeful take on the Devil shows him at his best, comically powerful and omnipotent.

Davida Evette Tolbert is the no nonsense cop Harriet, and boy does she give a great performance. She was taunted by Grace in High School, most likely for her sexuality, and is befuddled at Grace's strange behavior. Tolbert is appropriately unsympathetic towards Grace, and  now has the upper hand. She uses her position to  make up for years of taunting, and has a riveting monologue to extoll her frustrations and observations.

Comic relief comes as Grace's mother Fiona, and her new found boyfriend  Adam enter the picture. Diane DiBernardo and Ricky Needham are hysterical as these oddballs with an unlikely relationship. It's unclear, but Adam may very well be Fiona's psychologist.  DiBernardo  has great timing and is a goofy drug and alcohol user who is as flighty as a 1960's earth-child. Needham is as odd as  they come, endearing  like a nimble gumby. He is enamored with Fiona and goes  along for the strange ride  as the mother and daughter reunite. Berst and DiBernardo have a great quirky chemistry and are totally believable- the two actually resemble each other and create some fun tension as they feud and attempt to reconcile  after Fiona reveals her cancer diagnosis.

Alejandro Gabriel Gomez has the thankless role of Eddie, who is abused, taunted and tortured, He is the good guy in a play full of misfits. Providing a home for Grace is his expression of true love, and in doing so her story takes a dramatic turn.

Melinda Capeles shines in the important cameo role of Katrina, the unknown visitor to the house.  Holter uses her to explain the plight that Grace is in. Her intensity was palpable, as she tried to make sense of the  bizarre situation.

The cast is uniformly  strong, handling the scenes of chaos with precision. There is lots of talking over one another and casual self commentaries that appear effortlessly delivered, but require keen rehearsal. The language is often foul but appropriate for the situation. Holter does a fine job balancing the comedy with horror, all with a sense of foreshadowing. You believe  the plight of all of these random characters, but adding the supernatural element places the story in a different realm. It is unclear why Holter chose the title, as it is most often associated with dancing, and his denouement definitely left the audience a bit perplexed. But then again, there are no rules in a comic horror story.

The excellent set design by Collin Ranney maintains the high standard that audience's come to expect from Road Less Traveled. John Rickus' lighting design is featured during the spookiest of scenes, adding to the suspense felt during the effective special effects.

THE LIGHT FANTASTIC plays at Buffalo's Road Less Traveled Theatre through March 24,2023. Contact for more information