Bad Seed Highlights Terror

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From l, Jennifer Kersey plays Christine Penmark, the mother of problem child, Rhoda, played by Cybelle Kaehler, in the ELATE production of “Bad Seed.”

From l, Jennifer Kersey plays Christine Penmark, the mother of problem child, Rhoda, played by Cybelle Kaehler, in the ELATE production of “Bad Seed.”

Evoking the paranoiac days of the 1950s Red Scare, Bad Seed combines excellent acting and a thoughtful story as it examines how appearances can be deceiving and that evil can often lurk in the most unlikely of sources. Its terrifying tale offers plenty of Halloween chills and fright.

Christine Penmark (Jennifer Kersey) seems to possess the idyllic 1950s life: loving husband, sweet child (Cybelle Kaehler), and lovely home. As strange events mount, could her practically perfect little girl actually be a cold-blooded killer?

Director Stanley Brown draws fine performances from his cast. Kersey gives a warm, touching portrayal of the disbelieving though thoughtful Christine, struck cold by her growing realization of danger. Kaehler starts off all sugar and sweet, before the manipulative, calculating doppelganger emerges. Debbie Lowe’s busybody Monica and Marilyn Strange’s brittle, smug Miss Fern add nice touches.

Fine production work evokes the prim and proper 1950s, especially the lovely costumes of tailored suits and fitted day dresses. The formal house reflects the more structured times.

Dialogue also reflects concerns of the era: psychiatry, conforming, and paranoia. The cast seemed a tad nervous, with a few bobbles and a couple of characters that seemed to wander in from a different show, but the show provides a terrifying look at the monsters who walk among us. This intense subject matter makes it suitable for more mature audiences.

Bad Seed provides a scary glimpse into sociopathic behavior and its destructive nature, a frightening tale for the Halloween season.

ELATE (Emmanuel Lutheran Actors Theatre Ensemble) presents Bad Seed Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 10, at the Lincoln Stegman Theater at the Emmanual Lutheran Church, 6020 Radford Ave. in North Hollywood. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students 13 and under. Call (818) 509-0882 to make reservations.

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