Mark Baer, director of Hammond’s Towle Theater’s production of “The Nightmare Room,” was immediately drawn to the psychological thriller the first time he read the script.
“I was carried along with the story and very surprised and taken off guard and shocked a couple times,” he said. “The first time a director reads a play, you try and notice your reactions and grab onto those so you remember what it was like the first time because you’re never going to have them again, and that first time, the play really got me. And that got me excited about directing it.”
Opening Friday and running through May 16, “Nightmare” tells the tale of Catherine and Helen, two longtime friends, albeit in different places professionally and socially, who find themselves held captive together in a room. Both in love with the same man, their relationship unravels during the ordeal after secrets come to light and confessions are made.
Based on a short story by beloved Scottish scribe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, “Nightmare” was adapted for the stage by British playwright John Goodrum. The play made its debut in his homeland in 2005.
“Nightmare” is making its Indiana debut with its Towle Theatre run. Baer, assistant director of acting and directing at Indiana University Northwest, is making his directorial debut at Towle with “Nightmare” as well.
While Baer was immediately drawn to the play once he sat down with the script, he admitted to being skeptical at first with the prospect of helming such an intense tale.
“I’m not always sure that the live theater is the best environment for a piece that’s trying to be a thriller,” he said. “I think film does that pretty well. But this play is really smart and very well plotted and very well structured.”
Chicagoan Makha Mthembu portrays Catherine and Lansing’s Toya Turner plays Helen in Towle’s production of “Nightmare.”
“(Mthembu and Turner are) wonderful professionals, really terrific natural talents and personalities onstage,” Baer said. “They’re really fun to watch, and they are being very bold and brave in their explorations of these two characters.”
Due to intense situations and some violence, “The Nightmare Room” is recommended for mature audiences.
Next up for Towle Theatre is a production of the musical “From Up Here,” scheduled to open July 11.
FYI: “The Nightmare Room” will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday and May 8 to 10 and May 16 and 17; also 2 p.m. May 4 and 18 at Towle Theatre, 5205 Hohman Ave., Hammond. Cost is $17. Call (219) 937-8780 or visit TOWLETHEATER.ORG