‘Woman in Black’ Produces the Perfect Nightmare
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 16:10
If the fine people behind the production of “The Woman in Black” at The Stage at Island Park were hoping to give their opening night audience a lasting memory of the night’s performance, they can consider themselves successful. The only question is what each audience member will remember the best.
Perhaps it may be the two actors who juggled multiple roles in this production. Maybe some attendants will recall the need for imagination to see things that were not really there. Above all, it would be very hard to believe if any of the theatergoers that night were able to erase the sight of the terrifying figure dressed entirely in black from their minds. That image, like the performance itself, will no doubt remain quite memorable.
The performance, of course, had much more to offer than that. The play, written by Stephen Mallatratt, is unique in the fact that it is a play-within-a-play. Arthur Kipps (Raymond Scot Sorrels) hires an actor (Matthew Englund) to instruct him in theatre, and therefore aid him in sharing his terrible tale with everyone he knows. It was here that the play began to get confusing, as Englund took up the role of Kipps to show the character how to act. Sorrels, the real Kipps (yes, very confusing!), bounced around and performed many other parts. This changeup was slightly annoying at first, but began to clear up later on once the audience accepted that Englund was now Kipps.
Kipps, a London solicitor, is charged with clearing up the late Alice Drablow’s estate after the reclusive widow’s death. At the old woman’s funeral, Kipps witnesses a tall, gaunt woman clothed completely in black watching from afar. When he tries to confront her, she disappears from sight, only to reappear moments later. This certainly made the audience feel uncomfortable and highly alert. With a sinister black figure appearing at a moment’s notice at any place in the theater, everyone is bound to be on their toes.
Over the next few days, Kipps goes over every one of the late Mrs. Drablow’s papers, and discovers a 60-year-old secret he becomes obsessed with. The Woman in Black begins to pop up at the most inconvenient of times (in the middle of the night, while chasing a dog, etc.). Kipps begins to lose his mind, and, combined with the ancient screams of deceased children ringing in his ears at random intervals, is determined to discover who and what the Woman in Black is.
Kipps eventually does learn the specter’s secret, but the results are disastrous. Upon his return to London, his life is highlighted by his marriage and the birth of his son. This all falls apart when the Woman in Black returns once more to haunt and harass the man who crossed her path.
Following these explanations, the performance between Kipps and The Actor returns to the performance between Sorrels and Englund. The Actor congratulates his pupil on mastering his acting, and inquires where he found the actress to appear as the Woman in Black. Kipps is unsettled as he tells The Actor that there was no one else involved in the performance.
With a few laughs, a healthy dose of imagination, and some scenes that will chill the spine, “The Woman in Black” has its toes dipped in several genres of theatre. It is does not exactly fall under any specific style, but fits the title of ghost story better than any other. With a specter like the one seen in this performance, it is enough to make anyone leave a light on when they go to bed.
“The Woman in Black” runs at 7:30 p.m. from Oct. 25 to 27 at The Stage at Island Park. Tickets are $10 for students, $15 for seniors, and $20 for adults.