Now that Lance Peverley has left the news business, at least for the time being, he’s gotten himself involved in directing plays for local community-theatre companies.
This week, less than a month after he left his job as editor of Peace Arch News, he’s busy bringing to the stage Night Watch, a Lucille Fletcher script that serves as Surrey Little Theatre’s winter show this season.
In this psychological thriller, Elaine Wheeler has suffered a nervous breakdown following the death of her first husband, but when her report of a murder is so quickly disregarded as the delusions of a madwoman, it’s clear someone – her controlling husband, doting best friend, stubborn maid, flamboyant neighbour, probing new therapist or perhaps even the investigators themselves – has secrets.
“This woman, she starts to wonder if she’s going crazy,” Peverley explained. “And, well, the audience is going to start wondering if she’s going crazy, and then the whole gaslighting thing that seems to be so in vogue right now, it plays a huge role in this. You know, did she see a body and is someone trying to make her think she’s crazy? And there’s just a great cast of characters that raise suspicion, with red herrings all over the place. It’s so well-plotted, this story.”
Nine actors are cast, with Mahara Sinclaire (as Elaine) and Grant Vlahovic (as her husband, John) in leading roles. The other actors are Terry Ford (as Blanche Cooke), Halia Hirniak (Helga), Pat McDermott (Curtis Appleby), Brian Johnston (Sam Hoke), Brandon Smith (police officer Vanelli), Andrew Wood (Lieutenant Walker) and Margaret Shearman (Dr. Tracey Lake).
“It’s an amazing cast I get to work with,” raved Peverley, who is directing his second show for Surrey Little Theatre. Night Watch comes two years after his first, the classic courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men, which was staged in early 2017.
“I have a background in film,” he said, “and some of my actor friends have been quite involved in theatre. I’ve always had an interest, and thought it would be a bit of a challenge, a new experience, trying to find the differences between film and theatre, and it was quite fascinating for me, working with actors.”
In film and TV, Peverley’s credits include some high-profile shows, as director, writer, casting, producer and more. His profile on imdb.com lists work on X-Men: The Last Stand, I Spy, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and other titles, mostly in the mid-2000s.
“In film, I did a lot of short film projects and worked as an assistant director for years, and kind of focused on extras,” Peverley noted. “As an assistant director, you deal more with the bureaucratic, administrative duties so much – getting the actors through to hair and makeup, wardrobe, getting them to the stage, getting all the crew, the timing to get through the production day. But the one creative thing was being able to put extras in their place and move them around the actors and have it all look like the real world. So I focused on that, which was always fun, especially with bigger shows that came through town and when there’s lots of money.”
Elizabeth Taylor starred in the 1973 film version of Night Watch, which Peverley has avoided seeing in the months since he first agreed to direct the Surrey Little Theatre production.
“My understanding is they took this story and there’s a few plot twists that happen, and they kind of put the plot twists in the middle of the film somehow, so it doesn’t end the same way,” Peverley said. “The interesting this is, when they approached me with this, when one of the board members approached me to direct Night Watch, I’d never heard of it. To me it felt very Hitchcock-ian and also very funny. It’s a thriller and it has nice twists in it.”
The script, Peverley added, is one of the tightest he’s ever read.
“Every line of dialogue pays off, every action by the characters has something going on,” he revealed. “If you’re paying attention, you will see more than enough clues by the time the whodunit is revealed.”
Night Watch opens at Surrey Little Theatre on Thursday, Jan. 24, with 18 show times until Feb. 23. Details are posted on surreylittletheatre.com, call 604-576-8451 or look for tickets on brownpapertickets.com. The theatre is located at 7027 184th St., Surrey.
On the weekend following opening night, the company will begin auditions for Sealed for Freshness, billed as “the original Desperate Housewives” and tagged as the company’s entry in Theatre B.C.’s Fraser Valley Zone theatre festival for 2019. The show, directed by Kayt Roth, will hit the boards from April 18 to May 11, with the festival set to start May 12.
Up next for Peverley, in the world of community theatre, is the job of directing a White Rock Players Club production of Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor, staged in June for a two-week run.
“Probably just as this one (Night Watch) is opening, I’ll be transporting to that one,” Peverley said. “Twelve Angry Men, it’s a very sociopolitical story, and (Night Watch) is a suspense thriller, a bit of a whodunit, and then Laughter on the 23rd Floor is comedy. I mean, they’re all about people but it’s very different genres, so I can’t really say I have a specialty yet,” he said with a laugh. “But I love stories, I just love finding ways to tell stories and working with actors trying to do that. It’s a challenge, but I’m loving it, absolutely loving it.”