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BWW Review: THE REAR WINDOW Offers a Glimpse into Isolation and Paranoia in Classic Thriller Style


BWW Review: THE REAR WINDOW Offers a Glimpse into Isolation and Paranoia in Classic Thriller Style

Rife with references to some of Alfred Hitchcock's best-known works, THE REAR WINDOW, based on Cornell Woolrich's short story, It Had To Be Murder, offers a tense look into solitude and desperation.

Written, directed and designed by Emily Dix, the Bygone Theatre production takes great advantage of the unique multi-floor layout of Theatre Passe Muraille's Mainspace. The story originates with Jeff (Tristan Claxton), a New York-based photojournalist whose leg injury has kept him confined within his small apartment for several weeks. Fuelled by alcohol and a plethora of painkillers, Jeff spies on the surrounding units - with a range of neighbours residing on the third floor of the theatre, and a section of the main stage utilized by Mr. (Antonino Pruiti) and Mrs. (Elizabeth Rose Morriss) Thorwald's home.

Jeff becomes obsessed with the latter couple after witnessing something through his window late one evening, and as he spirals into a web of paranoia he drags those around him down too. His doting, picture-perfect girlfriend Lena (Kate McArthur) nails the 1950's verbiage. McArthur is the wannabe housewife to Claxton's surly, narcissistic and commitment-phobic Jeff, making them seem an odd pair at every stage of the story. Both claim love for one another throughout the play, but there is no real reasoning for it given the differences in their personalities and inability to communicate - all details that are executed well by McArthur and Claxton.

As the newspaper errand-boy turned personal assistant to the wheelchair-bound Jeff, Charlie (Alex Clay), is both the youngest character and the most sensical. Clay is a breath of fresh air in Jeff's closed-up, stale apartment and drops some of the most poignant advice, seeming for the most part like the only character truly trying to help Jeff (if not enabling him at points).

Pruiti makes for a highly-interesting suspect, delivering little in terms of verbal content but making up for the limited script with a chilling physical performance. At various points throughout the show, the residents of the units outside Jeff's apartment lean a bit heavily into their caricatures. Sometimes this pays off well in terms of comedy, but at times it feels a bit goofy when contrasted with the main subject of Jeff's downward spiral.

Costumes are on point throughout the show, and alongside the aforementioned set create a believable 1950s New York neighbourhood. Sound design, which is uncredited in the program, had a few strong moments but was overall unbalanced. While the high-pitch frequency helped explain Jeff's physical pain and the effects of the medication, at points the effects and music would cut in and out. At other points, the complete lack of sound only highlighted the noises coming from various neighbours miming - as well as the supporting cast did in showing what was happening outside Jeff's window, hearing their actions without any supporting dialogue was distracting at times.

What really drives THE REAR WINDOW is its strong script and solid delivery, with Claxton shining most as the dark, miserable Jeff. Bygone Theatre's take on the story that inspired a Hitchcock film is a strong thriller that takes cues from the best of the genre - and still finds ways to implant little twists and turns to keep it fresh.

THE REAR WINDOW runs through March 17 at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Avenue, Toronto, ON.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit

Photo credit: Emily Dix

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