Sight, sound, mind and mirth

Serling survives and thrives in Lafayette

Ian Gerber as Rod Serling

Halloween is but a few scant days away, and whether you celebrate it as Samhain, All- Hallows-Eve or the Feast of Heedless Inebriation, it’s time to get ghouly, ghostly and ghastly once again.

Children’s hearts across the land are already racing in anticipation of the diabetes-courting sugar jackpot soon to be their due. Normally demure and decorous women are doing the math on just how much tit they can show in their “sexy _______” costumes and not get arrested for indecent exposure. Their male counterparts are working just as hard to determine the minimum amount of effort they can put into a costume and still bag a slutty Palin or cross-dressed Sheen.

Let us not forget, however, that Halloween is all about terror, and 2011 brings a smorgasbord of scares for each and every one of us. Liberals are crapping their pants at the prospect of a one-term Obama and the Perry/ Romney/Cain monster that could  oust the Great Black Hope next year. Conservatives cringe at such horrors as Occupy Wall Street and America finally pulling out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Tweens fear puberty. Teens fear their peers. College kids, depending on their age, fear getting busted for underage drinking or the sound of mom and dad’s checkbook slamming shut.

Thirty-somethings tremble in the face of joblessness. Forty-somethings sweat that first grey pubic hair, and anyone older cowers at the notion of dying alone. Face it, unless you have balls the size of jumbo pumpkins, you’re probably sobbing in a corner, rocking back and forth with your knees pressed to your chest just praying that the Rapture or Zombie Apocalypse holds off for one more day.

With all the horrors that surround us daily, what a gift is laughter? The folks at the Theater Company of Lafayette (TCL) seem to know that it’s the best medicine, for they have brought forth the eighth iteration of their much-beloved tribute to one of the staples of TV’s bygone years with Return to the Twilight Zone, A Parody.

If you’re unfamiliar with TCL, they are the little theatre company that could. Based out of the tiny Mary Miller Theater and operating on a shoestring budget in the best of times, TCL proves year in and year out that the Beatles were right. All you need is love, and TCL’s love of Rod Serling’s brainchild suffuses every aspect and moment of Return to the Twilight Zone, A Parody.

In recognition of the fact that they no longer produce their Twilight Zone tribute every Halloween but now only every other year, TCL has added a fourth episode to the production. This time around, lucky audiences get to see “The Last Rights of Jeff Myrtlebank,” “Obsolete Man,” the well-known, title-tweaked classic “Nightmare at 27,391 1/3 Feet” and “Changing of the Guard.” TCL also retains its traditions of enacting classic ’50s and ’60s commercials between each Twilight Zone episode, the intermission Trivia Challenge and Ian Gerber’s excellent portrayal of Rod Serling himself. And, of course, Twinkies continue to play pivotal roles in the night’s entertainment.

As TCL notes, “while the innocence of late-1950s television seems campy today, the stories told in the series still have the ability to grip the imaginations of contemporary audiences. We preserve the great storytelling while poking a bit of fun at this cultural signpost.” And fun-poke they do indeed. The opening night audience guffawed whole-heartedly at the country-fried rubes in “The Last Rights of Jeff Myrtlebank” and the manic antics of the wing monster in “Nightmare at 27,391 1/3 Feet.” They also rejoiced at the twist ending of the Twinkies commercial and joyfully ooo, eee, ooo, ah, ah’d along with the Witch Doctor song in the Headshrinker ad.

Whether you watched first runs or reruns of The Twilight Zone or have never even heard of the show, I can’t recommend Return to the Twilight Zone, A Parody enough.

In addition to all the humor, subtle and otherwise, TCL’s version, like the original TV show, never fails to make you think. “Obsolete Man,” the standout segment in my opinion, functions as well or better today than it did when it first aired in 1961 as a cautionary tale of government power run amok.