Dissecting the dark comedy that captivated audiences at Amphibian Stage Productions

By scott@360westmagazine.comNovember 28, 2023No Comments

In Amphibian Stage’s ‘The Visit,’ Greed and Vengeance Abound

By Charlotte Settle
Photo courtesy of Amphibian Stage Productions

Dissecting the dark comedy that captivated audiences at Amphibian

Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s “The Visit” took Amphibian Stage by storm this fall, rounding out the theater’s 2023 main stage season. Due to illnesses in the cast, the company made the difficult decision to cancel the final four performances of the play.

Originally written in German in 1956, “The Visit” was adapted to English by acclaimed playwright, author, and critic, Maurice Valency. The show made its way to Broadway in 1959 and received five Tony Award nominations, including Best Play.

The story takes place in the depressed, destitute town of Güllen. A wealthy philanthropist and former Güllen resident, Claire Zachanassian, returns to the town after many years away. She promises to save the townspeople from financial ruin — under one deadly condition. The residents of Güllen must choose to cross an unforgivable moral line or forfeit their one chance at escaping poverty.

“As the townspeople move through the story, you wonder, will they or won’t they?” the show’s director, Jay Duffer, says. The story addresses corruption, greed, and justice under the guise of comedic characters. “There are some really funny moments juxtaposed very quickly with strong, dramatic ones.”

As co-artistic director of Amphibian Stage, Duffer typically directs at least one show per season. He was cast in his first Amphibian production in 2005 and has continued to work for the theater as both an actor and director over the years. Before moving to Fort Worth to assume his full-time position with the company in 2019, Duffer served as the chair of the theatre department at Huntington University in Indiana. He currently teaches directing for the Department of Theatre and dance at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Thanks to Duffer’s relationship with the school, Amphibian produced “The Visit” in partnership with the UTA theatre department. Current theatre majors Tanner Mobley, Gwen Mowdy, and Kimberly Turner, as well as recent UTA graduate Caleb De La Torre, contributed to the show’s ensemble.

“With my connection, we thought UTA would be a natural fit for a co-production with a university,” Duffer says. “I couldn’t be more proud of the students. They rose to the occasion of standing on stage with professionals and did a terrific job.”

Among the seasoned professionals who made up the rest of the cast was Amanda Reyes — a Fort Worth-based filmmaker, actor, and local arts advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, TV and Film from the University of North Texas and an Master of Fine Arts in Directing Narrative Cinema from the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema in Brooklyn.

“I’ve always had a passion for theatre,” she says. “That’s where I originally started. My heart is on the stage.”

Reyes saw her first show at Amphibian in 2022 and had been determined to perform with the company since.

“I had been seeing Broadway shows in New York, so my standards were really high,” she says. “When I saw Amphibian’s production of ‘Marie Antoinette,’ my jaw was on the floor.”

Reyes auditioned for the theater several times this past year, and when “The Visit” came around, she landed the role of Teacher.

“I always saw this character as the town’s last hope for humanity as it questions how far it will go to appease a billionaire,” Reyes says. Though Teacher is a historically male character, Duffer intentionally ignored gender when casting the show. Instead, he chose to focus on who would do the best job playing each role. He did, however, keep the characters’ pronouns as they are in the original script to uphold the historical context of the 1950s.

During her time in the show, Reyes saw a lot of Fort Worth in the plight of Güllen. She notes Fort Worth’s susceptibility, as one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, to welcome for-profit commercial developers at the cost of community art spaces.

“In this show, you have a town that is at the mercy of a wealthy developer,” she says. “In Fort Worth, we have almost the exact same thing happening at Sundance Square, to our green spaces, to our community art center. How far will we go to get the money? And at whose expense?”

“The Visit” encapsulates these issues within a gripping experience that infuses darkness with levity.

“There are so many struggling communities today that for-profit developers and billionaires claim to want to save,” Reyes says. “But at the end of the day, they lose their culture, humanity, and history.”

Though it was difficult to say goodbye to “The Visit” prematurely, the cast and crew celebrate their artistic triumph in the telling of this important story. “We are heartbroken and quite disappointed,” Duffer says. “But Amphibian will bounce back with continued innovative programming. It’s our thing.”


As the home of groundbreaking world-premiere plays, stand-up comic residencies, community workshops and more, Amphibian Stage is a vibrant staple of the arts in Fort Worth. To stay in the loop about upcoming productions and events, visit amphibianstage.com.