Mandrake’s End

Keep your friends close
        And your enemies closer
          Joshua Townsend

      Don’t you ever die?
               Harry Mandrake to Byron Meade

      Unfortunately, all good things have to end so a new chapter of life can emerge. In the last section of Randall Gray’s mesmerizing The Lake House Chronicles, starring the egomaniac and brilliant writer Byron Meade (this time played by the great Rich Neher) meet his end. Or does he?

Writer/director Gray purposely keeps the audience guessing on whether Meade dies at last or continues to make hell for the surviving members. This irritating bug resembles the 1980s nighttime soap opera Dallas when fans had to wait until the fall who killed JR Ewing. Remember that. That blasted Byron Meade, does he live? Is he dead? No, seriously, is he dead? Will he die? The last chapter is no different from the previous two.  Just when you think you got it figured out, another twist comes in and completely changes the scene.

Famous mystery writer Byron Meade (Rich Neher) is living comfortably at the lake house with his first love Evelyn Townsend (the wonderful Wendy Rostker). It appears the couple is deeply in love. She remains with him after Byron tells her the sordid story on what has previously occurred. He considers Evelyn to be ‘his only true friend” and professes his love to Evelyn. As the couple reunite, Evelyn’s pissed-off child Josh (the excellent Dash Porter) ruins their moment. Josh reminds Meade that he is “dead” but his new identity as Richard Crowne is alive and kicking. Evelyn is still confused on what’s going on and quickly pours herself a drink. Apparently, the whole family turns to the bottle when bad news arrives. It’s easy to understand why once you learn the broken family roots.

Everything finally makes sense and comes to a brutal end. Let’s just say everybody gets what they so richly deserve. There are no “aw-shucks” moments or feeling bad for anyone. Gray does an excellent job in making it clear who the bad guy is and who’s the one that should live. Meade is somewhere in between, especially with Neher’s portrayal. His version is calmer and less combative. His character tries to find a solution to the many chaotic moments in the story. Jay Antonos, who played Meade in Dead Men Have No Voice and Lakehouse Project plays him rough and ready to do battle. By the last episode, Meade becomes more relaxed and accepts the wrongs he did to others especially his daughter Becky.

Could it be,  Meade has found peace and is willing to lead a legit life as a husband and father? That’s all up to creator Randall Gray, who does an excellent job as escape convict Harry Mandrake. He beautifully shows off Harry’s descent into madness when he takes the family hostage at the lakehouse and that’s when the fun really starts as the truth is revealed with steady accuracy and painstakingly details.  If you haven’t been able to watch the first two episodes, no need to worry. The third installment answers many questions and even discloses a few surprises.

     Mandrake’s End plays Fridays (May 23rd and 30th) and Saturday, (May 24th)  at 8 p.m., until Saturday, May 30th, at the Hudson Theatre Complex, located at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., in Hollywood. For ticket information, call (323) 960-7776 or reserve online at www.plays411.com/mandrake


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