Reinvented actor climbs aboard ‘Death Express’

By Shari Goldstein Stern

Pegasus Theatre has become synonymous with “Living Black & White,” now entertaining Dallas and area audiences for three decades with period theater, harkening back to the early era of film — all in black and white. RadioVizion was added to the theatre’s repertoire, and the style will dart again into the Bath House Cultural Center on the shore of White Rock Lake. Pegasus screeches in on the “Death Express!,” picking up speed March 14 – 23.

What sets RadioVizion apart from the Living Black & White series is an alternative technique devised by Pegasus Theatre for the presentation of the Living Black & White series of Harry Hunsacker adventures. According to Kurt Kleinmann, the show’s writer, who created both genres, “RadioVizion doesn’t use the trade-secret makeup of the series, but instead focuses on evoking the experience and glamour of being in a live radio studio in the 1930s and 1940s era.” There are live sound effects, actors at period style live microphones, and costumes suggestive of the era to complete the effect.

“Death Express!” takes place on the Trans-Continental Express from Los Angeles to New York. Making up the cast are inept but endearing detective Harry Hunsacker, played by Scott Nixon, his paid-by-the-hour friend and assistant, Nigel Grouse, played by Ben Bryant, who is celebrating 10 years in the role, and Raymond Banda, who not only boasts the role of Lt. Foster of the real police for 10 years, but also directs the show. The group of character actors find themselves trapped on a train headed for murder. 

Passengers are off the rails with fear of a killer on the train who is determined to murder everyone onboard. Who knows whether it is the conductor, played by Christian Schmoker, or European starlet Valentina Benet played by Isabelle Culpepper? It might be Robert Long as Josephus, Alex Moore as Myrtle Ann, or Charles E. Moore as P.B. Caldicott. Michael Speck as Mr. Wainwright is another suspect, as is Brian Hoffman, who plays B.G. Charters. 

This is Hoffman’s first performance with Pegasus Theatre, and he is thrilled. “I’ve always dreamed of working with Pegasus,” he said. The actor returned to acting in 2016 after a hiatus since 1996 to raise a family. “This is another major step forward in my career to be able to work with such a renowned theatrical institution in Dallas. I hope it leads to more work with Pegasus,” he added.

Hoffman took classes at S.T.A.G.E., to help him re-enter the profession. “I wanted to ‘reinvent’ myself and reawaken all of those concepts and skills that had been dormant for so long,” he said.

“Since ‘theatre called,’ I feel lucky to have worked at a diverse group of venues,” he added. Hoffman performed at Undermain Theatre from 1993–1996, in shows including the world premiere of Erik Ehn’s play, “Beginner.” His other Undermain credits are “Macbeth,” “Mad Forest” and “Camino Real.”

He is sharpening his skills to find work in voice-over soon. He has taken two voice-over classes at S.T.A.G.E. in the last year. “I am thrilled to combine that new discipline with stage acting. I think audiences will feel like they are getting a sneak peek into the inner workings of a radio production,” he said.

Hoffman said, “I don’t regret any of my choices, but now that I am back on stage, I don’t know how I was able to stay away for so long.” His “day job” is with Bank of America Merchant Services, where he has worked for 27 years. He shared, “Retirement is still at least 10 years off.”

Hoffman’s mom, Barbara Hoffman, passed away last year, a week before his brother’s wedding. “The last nine years have been a real roller coaster, so many joys and sorrows. When my mom passed, it was a combination of desperate loss and ultimate relief,” he said. “Watching her decline mentally and then physically was so difficult. Watching the effect it had on my dad and the rest of my family was even harder.”

“Death Express” will run March 14-23 at the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive, 75218. Tickets are at pegasustheatre.org. 

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