La Jolla High enters ‘The Twilight Zone’ in fall production

It’s an otherwise quiet and snowy day in a small town. Area police officers have received reports of an unidentified object that has crashed in the woods. Officers look for the vessel — perhaps a meteor — but find nothing. Footprints are discovered leading to the nearby Hi-Way Café diner, and a bus is parked out front. Upon further investigation, the diner has one more person than can be accounted for on the bus. While it might raise some eyebrows in the real world, all this is perfectly common … in The Twilight Zone.

The mere mention of “The Twilight Zone” incites memories of Rod Sterling’s iconic voice, and black-and-white science fiction impossibilities, along with an uncontrollable urge to emulate the theme music. The theater department at La Jolla High School will bring three favorite episodes to the stage for its fall production of “The Twilight Zone,” 7 p.m. Nov. 2-4, with a pay-what-you-can performance 3 p.m. Nov. 3 in the school auditorium, 750 Nautilus St.

The three episodes are: “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” (teased at the start of this story), “The Living Doll” and “Eye of the Beholder.”

Having done “Twilight Zone” episodes as workshop exercises in the past, it was on director Stacey Allen’s bucket list to present a full staged production. “A lot of the kids had surprisingly heard of ‘The Twilight Zone’ already, so they took to it right away. Once they saw the episodes, they said, ‘We have to do this!’ It wasn’t a hard sell for them,” he laughed.

“Teens have a short attention span and parents are coming to the show after a long day at work, so these pieces are fast and entertaining; they get right to the good stuff. Some are eerie, some are spooky, others are thought-provoking.”

Senior Robert Mackey, who starred as Seymour in last year’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” returns as Ross in “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” He said the production stays close to the television version in terms of script and feel. “An alien ship has landed somewhere in the area and there’s a diner with an extra person in it,” he relates. “They figure someone in the diner isn’t supposed to be there, so they look at who got off the alien ship and was able to blend in with people.”

The other episodes feature a talking doll that, when speaking to a little girl says: “I’m Talking Tina and I love you very much,” but threatens to kill other people; and the story of a beautiful woman deemed ugly by the standards of a society of animal-faced creatures.

Senior Anna Romstead, who plays a server in the diner in the Martian episode, added that “The Twilight Zone” has a unique appeal for audiences of all ages. “A lot of times, stories made today in this genre are really weird and dark and not very light. ‘The Twilight Zone’ isn’t super heavy, and I really like that. Not everyone can watch something super edgy or dark. Our version, in particular, has a fun twist to it.”

Adding to the lightness is self-proclaimed “comic relief,” senior Joe Senoff, who plays Crazy Eyes in the Martian episode. “He’s this old man who says a lot of weird stuff and wants to mess with the people in the diner,” Senoff explained. “He accuses someone of being the alien, and after you see the show, you realize who the Martian actually is.”

Azure Sweetan-Abbott, who has a role in the “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” and is an understudy in “The Living Doll,” said the three-episode production is “really good and is going to be creepy, funny, weird and family-friendly.”

Seamus Butler, who plays her husband in “Martian” added, “It’s a great watch and a good experience.”

IF YOU GO: “The Twilight Zone” is on stage 7 p.m. Nov. 2, 3 and 4, with a pay-what-you-can performance 3 p.m. Nov. 3 in the La Jolla High School auditorium, 750 Nautilus St. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students, at ljhstheatre.com or the box office.

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