StoryTellers 2002: Twilight Zone Live, TinFish Productions. In the howling spiritual wilderness that followed World War II, the French had Jean-Paul Sartre and we had Rod Serling. His television series The Twilight Zone retailed existential doubt and dread in 30-minute chunks, featuring people with no memory trapped for no reason or huddled inside condemned property cowering at death or wondering how to cope with evil, assuming they could recognize it.
TinFish has chosen to remount three of the playlets, and while some of Serling’s conventions now seem a bit hoary, age cannot wither him, nor custom stale his infinite variety. Director Jon Frazier resists the temptation to camp up the material, which would distance the audience from it, and gets fine performances from his cast of five. Jeanie Grace is especially strong as the woman bent on eluding Death (played by Robert Redford in the original episode), and Patrick Jaromin shows impressive range, easily making his way from bagpiper to construction worker to mad monk.
But it’s the writing that knocks you out: try to imagine a contemporary TV show with an episode entitled “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” or one whose epigraph is “Nothing exists in the dark that wasn’t there when the light was on.” Perhaps Serling’s work seems particularly apt in a nation on the verge of war, or perhaps it’s timeless. At any rate this wonderful Halloween show offers food for thought and not just a sugar rush.