Halloween is months away, but those who enjoy the horror genre may want to attend "Terror By Gaslight" this weekend at Tiffin University. The Dragon's Den Players are to present the thriller by Tim Kelly at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in Osceola Theatre in the Gillmor Student Center on campus.
The setting for the play is Philadelphia in the 1800s.
A renowned surgeon, Dr. Cyrus Norton, operates a school to train young men interested in medical careers, but he is selective about the students he accepts. Part of his home has been turned into a classroom, and red draperies conceal the entrance to his dissection lab. Shelves house his jars of specimens, which he hopes to include in an "anatomical museum" someday.
PHOTO BY PAT GAIETTO
Dan Bell (left), as Dr. Cyrus Norton, questions a prospective student, William Dover, played by Aaron Stewart, in a scene from “Terror By Gaslight.”
As the curtain rises, Norton's colleague, Dr. Withers, arrives with William, who wishes to study with Norton. After questioning, William is deemed acceptable. While William is there, Constance and Marilyn enter and introduce themselves. Constance has come to live with her brother after Mrs. Norton's death. This allows Cyrus' daughter, Marilyn, to continue studying under her father.
TU faculty member Dan Bell is cast as Cyrus Norton. Students Jake Miller and Aaron Stewart portray Withers and William, respectively, while Emma Wegner is Constance and Julie Banks portrays Marilyn.
Constance is repulsed at the thought of the contents of the dissection room and even cringes at the word "dissection." Norton insists that dissection is essential for the education of competent surgeons. He speaks negatively about men who go into medicine for the money rather than to help people.
Obtaining enough cadavers for the classroom is difficult because only the bodies from the public gallows are allowed to be used in the lab. When the others have left for a lecture, Norton tells Withers, "we must have more bodies."
After Withers' departure, Norton waves a lantern at the window. Before long, Gin Hester and her partner, Leonard Scrubbs, appear through a back door with a body they have procured from the graveyard.
Their payment? Twelve dollars.
Jada Langston and Justin Grimes play the unscrupulous grave robbers. Norton controls them by threatening to report them to the authorities.
But other problems soon develop for the doctor. A distressed widow (Nicole Beard) accuses Norton of taking her dead husband's body and a disgruntled former student, Edward Daniels (Tyler Todd), learns about Norton's source of cadavers and threatens blackmail.
A detective (Denzyel Graves) is assigned to look into the rash of violent deaths and blackmail.
Completing the cast are Jamie Reed as Norton's maid and Cari Lyczek-Roser as Edward's ex-girlfriend.
What begins as a quest for knowledge and scientific advancement mushrooms into murder, even dooming the doctor himself. Somewhere along the line, he has convinced himself he is above the law.
In the aftermath, Marilyn takes up her father's work.
Mary Grennen, director of the play, commented on the connection between crimes of the past and those of the present day. The weapons have changed, but human nature remains the same and the public's fascination with death and terror continues.
"A large segment of the entertainment industry revolves around crime, suspense and even gore, perhaps because when we watch the dramatization of white collar crime and its underlying motives, we might shudder to think of the number of respected professionals, brilliant and accomplished, who have crossed over the line that separates human from monster. This play certainly shows that the propensity for murder does not discriminate," Grennen said.
Tickets are $4 and available at the door.