Hitchcock Parody Wrong Window! Brings Laughs to Desert Foothills Theater in Scottsdale
The setup: Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore are successful TV writers from New Jersey (if you ever wonder who's married to Adrienne Barbeau, it's Van Zandt) who also create mainstream farces (Love, Sex, and the I.R.S.). The team's Wrong Window! takes the overall plot of Hitchcock's Rear Window (28th best movie ever!) and makes it funnier, sillier, and action-packed.
courtesy of Desert Foothills Theater Ken Bailes (top) and Matthew Harris in Wrong Window!
Desert Foothills Theater, which sensibly describes itself as being "in the far north Valley" (because getting hung up on whose city or town limits it's within will not help you find the venue) is presenting the play's Arizona première, directed by Petey Swartz (the ariZoni award-winning Unnecessary Farce).
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The execution: This show and Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps have been introduced to American audiences at roughly the same time, so for purposes of quick description, they're often compared to each other. Except for being comic mysteries, though, they have little in common. Wrong Window! is a lot of fun, but it's not a work of genius that's going to make you pee yourself laughing. (Probably.)
The two plays do both present significant staging challenges. In Wrong Window!, the murder suspect's apartment across the way is the setting for two of multiple scenes, resulting in four complete scene shifts.
This is a good show for low-budget theaters, but those theaters rarely have space or resources for a stage-floor turntable that would make the set both impressive and efficient. And DFT's black box is hardly the first venue to simply have stagehands change one set over to the other. It's a little distracting here, largely because the shallow, intimate stage is very close to the audience, and the lighting is dimmed only so much (and perhaps should not be dimmed more, for safety -- not only are the corners tight from backstage, people and furniture are inches from front-row spectators). It is, however, quite safe as is, as far as I can tell, and the changes don't take too long.
Swartz and company score many pluses with the physical limitations, nevertheless. The set design from Orange Theatre Group's Matt Watkins takes advantage of several creative ways to make the same space different, including the way floor plans are mirrored in apartment complexes. And because the playing area (and, therefore, the seating area) is exceptionally wide as well -- as Swartz mentions in her program notes -- flat-screen monitors are installed above the set to let everyone on the edges see what's going on upstage, across the courtyard. During scene changes, the monitors show gorgeous, iconic Hitchcock clips, and that's pretty cool.