An outstanding Annie Pesch inhabits 17 colorful characters in Magnolia Theatre Company’s terrific local premiere of Laura Schellhardt’s humorous and gripping 2008 ghost story “The K of D, An Urban Legend” continuing through Sunday, Oct. 4 inside the black box Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center.
One-person shows always demand immense versatility, energy and breadth of scope, particularly when the material requires the actor to embody multiple ages and personalities. Thankfully, Pesch, having already proven her worth in this realm years ago in Dayton Theatre Guild’s “The Belle of Amherst” and Wright State University’s “Fully Committed,” steps up to the plate once again with dynamic intuitiveness and captivating ease. This time, she specifically portrays The Girl, the central storyteller of this spooky summertime tale set in nearby rural St. Marys concerning Charlotte McGraw, a quietly introverted young girl kissed by her twin brother Jamie before he dies. The legend in question stems from the belief that whatever Charlotte kissed from that moment on also dies. As Charlotte and her particularly quirky friends (all distinctively and emotionally realized by Pesch) come to terms with witnessing tragedy firsthand, Schellhardt spins a beautifully poetic and engrossing web of mystery and danger. In fact, one of Pesch’s finest, darkest characterizations is of menacing hillbilly Johnny Whistler, the crude, reckless driver who killed Jamie and especially intimidates the muted Charlotte when he becomes her next door neighbor.
In addition to ensuring the tireless Pesch confidently conveys various identities, director Kimberly Borst, who staged “Pride and Prejudice” and “Songs for a New World” at Sinclair Community College last season, fluidly heightens the play’s intimacy by bringing her as close to the audience as possible and never having her remain stationary for lengthy periods. Movement is key and a refreshing plus throughout. Borst also receives impressively atmospheric support from a first-rate artistic team including lighting designer Jessy Henning, sound designer Emily Hutton (notably offering wonderfully eerie and impactful contributions), set designer Tristan Cupp, and costumer/Magnolia founder Gina Handy.
So, does Charlotte truly have the kiss of death? Clear your schedule this weekend and find out. After all, Pesch, Borst and the increasingly promising Magnolia Theatre Company have crafted a solid, engaging, fast-paced, and breathtaking experience.
“The K of D, An Urban Legend” continues today at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. inside the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. The production is performed in 75 minutes without intermission. Tickets are $20 general admission and $15 for military, educators and students. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com.