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Review: “The Woman in Black”

"The Woman in Black"

“The Woman in Black”

The Henegar Center for the Arts gets us all in the mood for the spooky season with its hauntingly effective production of “The Woman in Black.”

Set in London and among some desolate, fog shrouded Yorkshire moors, the story begins in the confines of an old, empty theater. Arthur Kipps, a London solicitor, has hired the Actor to bring to life Kipps’ story of horror. Kipps hopes this will exorcise all traces of the dread he has felt for years. The Actor agrees, thus sealing his own fate.

Playwright Stephen Mallatrat’s dramatic adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel brings out the tasty essence of storytelling. His conceit here is that two actors portray all the roles, creating a story that folds in on itself, like an eerie hall of mirrors. There’s always the little explanatory notes tucked into the program if you get too confused by Mallatrat’s play.

Directed with delightful theatrical style by Donald Westwood, the Henegar’s production uses every opportunity to nudge our imagination into believing the ghost story that unfolds.

The technical bells and whistles with this production are many. They are also vivid and oh-so-well used. Bryce Niehaus’ bold and dramatic lighting design keeps us on the edges of our seats. And Thom Restivo’s sound design brings us into parks, onto London streets, on a carriage ride, and into the creeks, groans and screams of a deserted, haunted estate.

But it is cast who ultimately tell the story. And they are wonderful.

Like he did as the Russian soldier in “Fiddler on the Roof,” David McQuillen Robertson embraces his role here, ultimately carving out a well-rounded portrayal of the Actor. In addition, Mr. Robertson is responsible for the scenic and costume design.

As Kipps and others, Terrence Girard delivers some of his best acting this reviewer has seen. He uses restraint and takes an understated approach on stage. Indeed, in Mr. Girard’s hands, the repeated action of wiping one’s nose turns a throwaway character into one of the production’s most memorable.

This is such a fun theatrical thrill ride. And don’t shut your eyes. You wont want to miss some pretty clever special effects, especially in the second act. The Henegar was smart in choosing this play and for hiring Mr. Westwood to direct it. It’s one of the company’s best productions to date and a great way to get you into the bewitching season.

Photo by Dana Niemeier Photography.

SIDE O’ GRITS: “The Woman in Black” runs through Oct. 28 at the Henegar Center for the Arts, 625 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne. Curtain is 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $16 students, $21 seniors and $23 general. There is a $2.50 service charge for tickets purchased on line. Call 321-723-8698 or visit www.henegar.org. DUE TO DEATH IN MR. ROBERTSON’S FAMILY, THE SHOW IS CANCELED FOR WEEKEND OF OCT. 19 TO 21. TICKETS MAY BE EXCHANGED FOR FINAL WEEKEND OR REFUNDED.