note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey
Stephen Mallatraitt’s THE WOMAN IN BLACK has that definite “Masterpiece Theater” feel about it and the Hovey Players’ production (thru this weekend) manages to create the creaky turn-of-the-century, British atmosphere necessary to pull off a ghost story.
The premise is this: An unassuming solicitor is dispatched by his firm to settle an estate in a remote village of England. No one, it seems, wants to help him or even speak about the deceased in creepy Crippin Gifford. (The English have such odd town names: My favorite is Little Storping from the “The Avengers.) While in the empty house, the solicitor hears clanging and screams, and then succumbs to some kind of miasma.
What he experienced thereafter was evidently so horrific that he seeks professional help to get it out of his consciousness. No, not Freud. The field of psychoanalysis was in its infancy so he hires a theater and an actor to exorcise the ghost by putting his story on stage—certainly an unusual cure but one which seems to work for him. What happens during rehearsal is another thing altogether.
Kristin Hughes’ direction is elegant and evocative, aided immensely by Mario Salinas and the TJ Sound Machine for eerie ghost effects. Chuck Schwager and Randy Marquis give authentically period performances, the former cleverly portraying dozens of secondary characters like shop owners, land agents, barkeeps, drivers and barristers. If you’re a fan of the old black and white Sherlock Holmes films, then this is your cup of tea.