“Night Must Fall” has the charm of the “Golden Girls” and the intrigue of “Murder She Wrote.” If this sounds like a trip to Grandma’s, you’re on to something, as the pacing of this play, written in 1935 by Emlyn Williams, is akin to a senior citizen taking her walker out for a stroll.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is just that the play tests one patience occasionally while bringing a nice sense of nostalgia — just like a trip to Grandma’s place.
“Night Must Fall,” playing at the Heights Players, tells the tale of Mrs. Bramson — played by show-stealing Margaret Sullivan — an old curmudgeon who rules her house with an iron fist despite being confined to a wheelchair. Not much happens in Bramson’s house in the British countryside, and the audience is subjected to its stagnant atmosphere for much of the first act.
The initial conflict revolves around Bramson’s strained relationships with her two servants and her niece, Olivia (a cerebral Gargi Shinde), who yearns for life in the fast lane.
But when a dead body turns up in the woods near their house, the mystery — or lack thereof — begins.
Enter Dan — well-played by a weasely Noel MacDuffie — a lower-class charmer who manages to worm his way into Bramson’s orbit by knocking up one of her maids. The unexpected pregnancy quickly falls by the wayside as Dan sets his sights on Bramson’s sizeable stash of cash.
Unfortunately, Dan’s skeletons in the closet and cruel intentions are about as obvious as Bramson’s wig, meaning that there isn’t much mystery to this murder.
Still, Dan’s interactions with Bramson are entertaining, though his relationship with Olivia certainly takes an unexpected turn that is more of a head-scratcher than a stunning revelation.
Rounding out the cast is Mrs. Terrence — played by a raucous Maureen Vidal — a feisty maid who is constantly storming around the set in an exaggerated rage that is an entertaining disruption.
The director, John Bourne, deserves credit for using every inch of the small theater to create the spacious living room where all the action takes place. However, the confines of the Heights Players’ Willow Place theater obviously presented some challenges, as there were a surprising amount of moments in which one of the speakers actually had his or her back to the audience.
Still, “Night Must Fall” has a certain allure. The actors are all having a blast with their British accents, and the play has an undeniable “retro” feel, which is only reinforced by the mostly over-the-hill cast.
“Night Must Fall” at the Heights Players [26 Willow Pl. between Joralemon and State streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 237-2752] will run through April 25. Tickets are $20.