Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Woman in Black (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

If you possibly can, try not to think at all about the 2012 motion picture of the same name.  Really.  Yes, the two are based on the same novel, and bear some genuine resemblance.


Yet you will have a better, more wonderfully terrifying experience if you forget about the movie (or even the book) and simply watch this play, The Woman in Black by Stephen Mallatratt based on the novel by Susan Hill.  Walk into the theatre expecting only what the adverts say "a ghost play" and you will have the best of times.

To be fair, you'll enjoy it a lot even if you don't, but that would be the best way.  At least if the idea of genuine horror appeals.  No jump scares.  No obvious trickery.  No cheap thrills.  Rather, a gathering mood of terror, or the uncanny right there and not to be dismissed.

Spencer Cantrell and Adam Meredith tell the tale.  Or rather, they enact it.  Rather than pretend this is some kind of realistic recreation of things like Edwardian London or a huge old house amid marshlands, what they do is what Shakespeare calls "on your imaginary forces work."  Sound and suggestion create everything.

Mr. Arthur Kipps (Meredith) is a retired solicitor, one with something in his past that needs telling.  Or maybe the better word is "exorcising."  He has sought out an actor (Cantrell) to help him explain what happened, to help him make it real.  So the two of them go about precisely that.  Kipps as a young man had had the job of going through the personal belongings of an elderly woman who had lived pretty much in seclusion for decades, within a mansion called Eel Marsh House.  A simple enough task, one would think.

If it weren't for the title character, the woman who attends the funeral of the late woman, yet never says a single word.

I should mention here the direction by Jacob Smith does wonders amidst all this, because the trust placed into the two man cast coupled with little more than the words of the script achieve wonders.  Ann Hurd's amazing set design (really, she did spectacular job) and Graydon Schlichter's sound design as well as Gregory Crafts' lights do it all without a drop of blood, without a single special effect, without anything or anyone popping out of a wall or piece of furniture.

Just...what happens.

The Woman in Black plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm, through November 4, 2017 at the Belfry Stage, upstairs at 11031 Camarillo Street (just west of Lankershim) North Hollwyood CA 91602.

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