Thrillers and Suspense: Downtown Theater’s British Invasion

The cast of "Last Orders"  from left to right: Giovanna Accordino, Rycheigh Allan, Tyler Stimson, Josh Monroe, Dustin Graziano, Steven Michael Cobb, and Crin Fredrickson.
The cast of “Last Orders” from left to right: Giovanna Accordino, Rycheigh Allan, Tyler Stimson, Josh Monroe, Dustin Graziano, Steven Michael Cobb, and Crin Fredrickson.

Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut

“Last Orders” is a set of four one-act thrillers, some reminiscent of the “Twilight Zone”, according to Director and Spire Theater owner, Angelo Giuffré. Others simply offer a series of twists and surprises that will keep theater goers on the edge of their well upholstered seats at Studio Metro in the InSpire Development Center, the Spire Theater, at 317 E. 3rd Street in downtown Jamestown, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday March 18-19 and March 25-26.

“It’s all part of the ‘British Invasion’ thing that started recently with a one-act thriller showcase written by British playwrights, Richard Olson-Walter, who now lives in Mayville, M.P. “Mike” Richardson and Graham Forbes still in Britain,” Giuffré said.

“One of their plays, Mike Richardson’s ‘The Man Who Liked Order,’ whose premier run in the UK pulled down rave reviews, was such a big hit here at the Spire two years ago, we decided to stage more of his work,” Giuffré explained. “So the group offered us a portfolio of 11 different 1-act plays. They’re all just brilliant.” A first set of four was performed at The Spire in October, 2015 as the British One Act Thriller Showcase.

Spire’s World
“Jamestown is a wonderful place for theater,” Giuffré said, “and a good place to do business. It is also my home, my family’s home and hometown to all of my friends. I’m one of the people who wanted to stay here to build a career, not one of those who wanted to move away. I love theater, and I think this is a great place for it.”

Theaters in Jamestown are not dividing a small audience among too many venues, according to Giuffré. “We are not all [the city’s various theaters] taking smaller and smaller pieces of the pie. We are, in fact, making the pie bigger and bigger. Everybody has a better chance to prosper as theater going becomes more and more popular.”

Angelo Giuffré and his wife, Ylsa, trace their theatrical collaboration back about a decade to a successful fund raising event they were hired to stage for Jamestown’s Prendergast Library. “That may have been our favorite of all the shows we ever produced,” Giuffré said. “We’ve always appreciated what the Prendergast does for Jamestown, so here’s another chance to give something back.

Theater and literature are so closely linked, the library seemed a perfect place to make a contribution to the community, according to Giuffré. One hundred percent of the net proceeds for “Last Orders” will go to the Prendergast.

Four Mind Games
“Last Orders” is a set of four plays. Though each is a single-act, 15 to 30 minute, stand-alone play, they are all skillfully woven around a single theme, the so-often intertwined roles of mortality, alcohol and conscience.
The first of the four plays, “A Thought for Today”, simply portrays a man and an ordinary radio. That apparently innocent radio, however, becomes oddly aware of the man’s thoughts and then delves deeply, perhaps too deeply, into something dark and sinister in his past. The final twist adds a new dimension to life with a troubled conscience.

“Fade Away” the one Giuffré calls the most “Twilight Zone” of the plays, looks in on a man who knows he exists but finds himself fading away in every other reality he knows. “I won’t spoil the ending of this one,” Giuffré said, “but Rod Serling would have loved it.” Serling once described his own work by saying, “There is nothing in the dark that isn’t there when the lights are on,” a notion one might also find in this short play.

“On Reflection,” play three – following intermission – takes place entirely in a jail cell which is home to one or more individuals, depending on how the viewer understands the ensuing twists upon twists which Giuffré refuses to disclose, invoking the “spoiler alert” rule of previewing plays.

The final play, “Last Orders”, gives the entire 4-play cycle set its name. It takes place in a bar and plays on the dual meanings of the phrase “Last Orders” which in Britain refers to both the last orders a bartender will fill, as in “last orders, gentlemen,” and a deceased person’s final requests.

A bar, as is all-too-well-known to many people who are habituated to the environment, straddles the opposing worlds of Heaven and Hell, an odd connection which is explored in the play. “Be careful which drink you order,” Giuffré warned.

The Spire’s Big Time Players cast members for “Last Orders” are Dustin Graziano, Rycheigh Allan, Tyler Stimson, Crin Fredrickson, Giovanna Accordino, Steven Michael Cobb, and Josh Monroe.

Build It?
Angelo and Ylsa Giuffré have enjoyed both success and growth since acquiring the Spire Theater, rescuing a venerable old Jamestown church from obsolescence and a long decline. “We have continued to evolve in what we offer,” Giuffré said. “It has depended on what the public wants and appreciates.” Success, however, is not automatic, even with a great product to offer.

“I have a favorite saying,” Giuffré explained, with a playful smile. “But I think that old saying needs to be changed if businesses want to succeed around here, especially artists and actors who are not notoriously good entrepreneurs. My version is, ‘If you build it, they will NOT come… unless you market it!”

“That’s what we do here at the Spire, for an entire small community of artists, writers and actors who share our building with us. We’re not just promoting ourselves, we’re promoting the arts to a very receptive and appreciative audience here in Jamestown.”

Tickets for “Last Orders” are $12 pre-sale or $15 the day of each performance. They can be purchased in person at the library, online at or by phone at 450-7357.

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.