Transcript: Connie Meng Review aired Tuesday, July 26, 2005
NCPR HomeConnie's Reviews page

The Woman in Black

7/22-7/31/05
Depot Theatre, Westport

The ghostly mystery THE WOMAN IN BLACK is currently haunting the Depot Theatre. It's based on a novel by Susan Hill and adapted for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt. As the playwright says, ". . . something glimpsed in the corner is far more frightening than if it is fully observed." There are plenty of corner glimpses in this production that builds to a satisfying and shivery conclusion.

Set at the turn of the century, the play consists of the re-telling of the story of a family curse in an attempt to dispel it. The structure is very clever. The cursed lawyer, now elderly, hires a theatre director to help him tell it. The director ends up playing the young lawyer on whom the curse was laid and the older lawyer plays all the other characters in his own story.

Although there are only two speaking roles, there are really six characters in THE WOMAN IN BLACK. There are two non-speaking women who appear throughout and the other two characters are the excellent sound and lighting. You can't tell a good ghost story without shadows and creaks.

Iain Whitecross has designed lighting that augments the ghostly tale with the use of projections, silhouettes behind translucent curtains, baby spot footlights, gobos and some great effects by lighting through smoke.

Sound Designer Mark Huang has created a complex, interesting and very effective sound design, from the hollow reverberating door slams to the halting footsteps, from the frightened horses to a baby's cry. The sound and lighting are an indispensable part of the world of the play. Stage Manager Michele Traub and Sound Engineer T. J. White coordinate these technical characters perfectly with the live action.

Speaking of live action, the two actors, Alex Cranmer as Young Kipps and John Thomas Waite as Older Kipps and pretty much everyone else, are both terrific. Mr. Cranmer is very good as the theatre director and makes the transition to Young Kipps smoothly. Mr. Waite is excellent at delineating the many characters and manages to make them all believable.

I guess I shouldn't speak of the performances of Louise McGoldrick and Kira Simon-Kennedy as "live action." They're both very effective. To understand what I mean, you'll have to go see the play.

Director Carole Healey has also designed the spare set which is interesting, functional and versatile. She never overplays the ghostliness, but builds the piece to a climax where the last line literally gave me a chill up my spine. A warm summer evening is a great time for a shivery ghost story.

On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre production of THE WOMAN IN BLACK gets four and seven eighths boxcars. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

© 2005 Connie Meng. Produced and distributed by
member-supported North Country Public Radio
NCPR HomeConnie's Reviews page