Masquers return with classic performance of ‘Vintage Hitchcock’


Isabelle Farina

Masquers take a bow after completing their performance of Vintage Hitchcock.

After being torn away from the bright lights and contagious energy of a live audience since December 2019, the Masquers finally returned to where they belong — onstage — with “Vintage Hitchcock,” which ran on Nov. 12 and 13. Instantly, the audience was transported behind the scenes of the WBRF radio newsroom as they recorded the progressions of three different murder mysteries. With an almost professional mastery of the iconic British accent used in musicals along with the old-time period outfits, the Masquers had their audience intrigued and entertained!

The play received its name by depicting adaptations of films directed by Alfred Hitchcock in his early or “vintage years.” Each about 45 minutes in length, the show is divided into three parts: “The Lodger,” “Sabotage” and “The 39 Steps.” With this setup, the Masquers of West Essex — led by director Brittany Hernandez, tech director Michael Galioto, stage director Chris Conroy and art director Alexa Lynch — kept their audience on the hook for thrills and excitement.

“The Lodger” had viewers on the edge of their seats as a family named the Buntings slowly discover that they are currently housing a murderer behind all the recent headlines, known only as The Avenger. This situation is particularly dangerous considering the Bunting’s daughter aligns perfectly with The Avenger’s ‘type’. After a short intermission, the stage and cast are reset to share the story of “Sabotage.” Here, an undercover detective follows the plan of a saboteur to bomb London. However, once the detective’s identity is revealed, the story evolves. Lastly is the intricate story of “The 39 Steps,” where Richard Hannay and Pamala’s distaste for one another grows into romance, and the couple works together to save England from its enemies. 

The Masquers’ performance blew me away with their ability to blend the thrilling and comical elements of the show with just the tone of their voices. With the requirement of masks due to COVID-19 indoor safety protocols and the limited on-stage movement due to the nature of the show, the cast’s only tool was their verbal execution. Of course, this was out of the Masquers’ hands, but facial expressions are crucial to a performance, and this aspect of the show was taken away from the actors; also, at times the inability to see who was actually talking made the story slightly more difficult to follow. Despite these few hindrances, though, I was overly impressed with the maturity of the acting, especially since much of the cast were underclassmen. 

The inclusion of live music and foley-style sound effects was not only a great concept, but also perfectly executed. It took me until the “Sabotage” performance to realize the sound effects of doors opening and closing were coming from right behind the cast! In addition to the hand made onomatopoeia, I was elated to hear some singing, even if it was only 30 seconds. I was thoroughly amused by the inclusion of lighthearted advertisements, where three cast members, Chloe Bonoguide, Claudia Marino and Adeline McCloskey, elegantly sang the company’s jingle. 

After spending just a few minutes with the cast after the show, I was inspired by their supportive, family-like environment. Their endurance of long strenuous hours and determination undoubtedly paid off to create an entertaining performance. Masquers’ successful completion of “Vintage Hitchcock” has me waiting eagerly for what’s in store for their next musical!