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The Woman in Black

a Thriller
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by by Stephen Mallatratt

COMPANY : Offoffpeachtree Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : offoffpeachtree @ Academy Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 1459

SHOWING : February 24, 2006 - March 18, 2006

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A dark, secluded manor on the edge of a fog-shrouded English marsh left empty when its elderly and reclusive widowed owner dies, a mysterious and ghostly woman in black who appears and disappears under eerie circumstances, terrified villagers who refuse to talk about either the widow, the house or its dead owner, and a young lawyer sent by his London firm to sort out the estate who becomes deeply embroiled in the mystery, to his and his family’s detriment – these are the ingredients of this spine-tingling ghost story, which has played to packed houses in London’s West End theatre district for over 15 years.

Adapted from the novel by Susan Hill, The Woman in Black is a classic and suspenseful thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat – or under it!


CAST & CREW LIST
Cast Mark Perloe
Director Kyle Crew
Crew Heather Ring
Crew Hollis Smith
Crew Rebecca Wright
The Actor Eric Brooks
Kipps Stuart McDaniel
The Woman Carri Schwab
Administration Peggy Chippeaux
Graphic Design Judy Thomas
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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A ghost story with spirited acting!
by line!
Sunday, March 12, 2006
5.0
I ventured out to the Academy Theatre last night to see OffOffPeachtree’s current production of “The Woman in Black”. I went to see, and support, my friend Carri Schwab who was playing the part of “The Woman”.

The general admission performance I attended was apparently sold out (or perhaps even over sold) as several patrons in the rows in front of me became involved in a discussion over the legitimacy of “reserved seating” by the “I-got-here-first-and-put-programs-on-the-empty-seats-to-hold-them-for-my-friends-who-haven’t-arrived-yet” method. The matter was quickly resolved peacefully with the magical arrival of additional chairs, and my evening of anticipated horror did not begin with the seating of the audience.

The Academy Theatre is a wonderful environment to see a show like this. It's “low rent” intimacy is a perfect match for the telling of a good ghost story. This performance relies on the audience’s imagination to fill in the details only hinted at in the physical display of a few minor props, pantomimes and sound cues. In one scene in particular, Mr. McDaniel’s character is quite impressed by the wonder of recorded sound being used to create images for the audience. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the “aural picture painting” was challenged by sounds from the outside world (low flying aircraft, sirens wailing on their way to some neighborhood emergency, and even conversation from the parking lot!) bleeding into the theatre via an open ventilation window. Ah the joys of community theatre, eh?

The promotions for this show warned me that I would be “on the edge of my seat” for this “nerve shredding” tale of ghosts and horror from Edwardian England. While it was indeed a pretty well written tale; it was much closer to good literature than to good horror. “The Woman in Black” is more about the “telling” of a rather formulaic ghost story via the premise of preparing for a theatrical presentation. There were several large holes in the logic of the “ghost story”, but aren’t the best ghost stories more about the emotions rather than the rationale? Personally, I was not kept on the edge of my seat, nor were my nerves shredded by the story. The story was well crafted, but not particularly unique or clever.

I was however, knocked back in my seat by power of the show’s two main actors: Eric Brooks and Stuart McDaniel! Wow! These two gentlemen worked their tails off! Their energy and craft was impressively consistent as they worked through a mind blurring variety of characters without ever losing the audience along the way, nor resorting to cheap tricks to differentiate their characters. This play is an “actor’s buffet” and these two guys came at it like two hungry Sumo wrestlers ready to chow down! The truly impressive part of it was their synergy. Normally in a play this demanding you would expect one actor to be stronger than the other. Not in this production! Mr. Brooks and Mr. McDaniel brought a combined energy to the performance that was much greater than the sum of its parts!

I would be remiss in my duties as a friend if I didn’t mention the performance of Carri Schwab. She brought a classic ghostly quality to the part of “The Woman”. She silently appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, frequently seen behind a semi transparent scrim, her “hideous death face” frequently enveloped in shadows. Throughout much of the performance she is deprived of the use of her face and dialogue to shape her character. She very effectively compensated by using her movements and hands to communicate her character’s eternal horror and sadness at the loss of her child. Based on conversations I overheard after the show, she succeeded in scaring the crap out of several patrons that evening.

The direction of the show was skillful, respectful and reinforced the strengths of both the story and the production. This is an actor’s show and it seemed to me that Director Kyle Crew is an “actor’s director”. I couldn’t detect any sign of directorial “interference” or “disharmony”. The staging was in keeping with the theatrical nature of the story and the characters blocking and pacing was perfectly suited to each scene. The performance was extremely smooth, emotionally balanced and totally appropriate. Did I mention effective?

Needless to say, if you enjoy seeing strong actors playing well written characters with skilled direction, (and can block out sounds from the outside world during the performance), I very highly recommend seeing this show! You may or may not be scared, but I think you will most definitely be impressed!
-Rial
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