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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

'Desperate Hours' is Good Ol' Fashioned Drama at Its Best

Frank Green portrays one of three escaped prisoners who invade a middle-class suburban home in Barter Theatre's production of
Frank Green portrays one of three escaped prisoners who invade a middle-class suburban home in Barter Theatre's production of "The Desperate Hours."


*** This story was published Oct. 16, 2008 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***

ABINGDON, Va. ? After a season of blockbusting, exuberant and technically amazing musicals, it's great to see the Barter Theatre in Abingdon offer us a tried and true drama ? a nice, one-piece set upon which superb actors can ply the height of their craft without fear of being upstaged by pyrotechnics or loud music.
Such is "The Desperate Hours."

Don't misunderstand. This play is still edge-of-your-seat drama that'll have you locking your doors and checking all the windows because it's the stuff of nightmares, stuff that has in fact actually happened more than once.

Three escaped federal prisoners invade the middle-class suburban home of the Hilliard family intending to hide out there and hold the family captive until the prisoners' associate can send them enough cash to finance their escape.

Of course, things rapidly deteriorate, and the tension builds, not only because the Hilliards fear the desperate prisoners, but because we, the audience, know that law enforcement ? local, state and federal ? are hot on the escapees' trail and are willing to engage in a shootout, even if it puts the lives of the family in danger.

Dan Hilliard (Rick McVey) is torn between trying to protect his family through acquiescence, which he seems to feel compromises his masculinity, or facing up to the prisoners physically, even if it means he is ruthlessly beaten or even killed.

On the other hand, his main antagonist, Glenn Griffin (Nicholas Piper), has his own problems as he tries to protect his simple-minded brother Hank (Ezra Col?n) and control Robish (Frank Taylor Green) who would just as soon kill, rape and go down in a hail of gunfire as not.

McVey is certainly at the top of his game here, but equally good is Michael Poisson as Jesse Bard, a deputy sheriff who realizes that Griffin is out to get him and his family.

The cast also includes Seth Marstrand, who is just perfect in his role, Dan Folino, Mary Lucy Bivins, Ashley Campos, Ryan Henderson, Eugene Wolf and Hannah Ingram.
The Hilliards' young son, Ralphie, is played alternatively by Logan Fritz and Kevin O'Bryan. I saw O'Bryan, and he is darned good. Of course, even though I didn't see him in this production, there's no doubt that Fritz brings a maturity to the part that far outdistances his years.

There is some pretty realistic gun play, so be prepared. Near the end of the play, a sniper rifle (a scope-mounted Marlin 336) is actually pointed outward toward ? but well up over the heads of ? part of the audience.

I don't know about you, but guns pointed in my direction, even over my head, make me downright queasy. I am comfortable around firearms ? provided I'm not on the business end of them. There's certainly never any danger to anyone, but the play is scary enough without this inadvertent bit of spice.

"The Desperate Hours" runs on Barter's Mainstage through Nov. 14, 2008. For reservations, call (276) 628-3991 or visit

A! ExtraTopics: Theatre