BWW Review: THE TURN OF THE SCREW at Filigree Theatre: An Intimate Little Haunt
I walk into the Romy Suskin Photography Studio serving as the venue for The Filigree Theatre's THE TURN OF THE SCREW. A darkened room and dimly lit candles greet me while classical music playing from a small speaker in the corner blankets the space with paranoia-tinged peacefulness. With just two actors and chairs for only ten audience members, director Elizabeth V. Newman creates an intimate atmosphere that still manages to transport the audience to the drafty halls of a Victorian mansion where THE TURN OF THE SCREW takes place.
Much like Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, THE TURN OF THE SCREW, adapted for the stage by Jeffrey Hatcher from the Henry James novella, follows a young but steadfast governess hired by a mysterious master to educate his children. Both women travel to an imposing manor which conceals a lurid history they don't fully understand. But the two stories eventually veer in two different directions, with Jane Eyre taking the path of a love story and THE TURN OF THE SCREW becoming a true gothic horror.
With no sets, music, or special effects to aid their performances, actors Paulina Fricke-Fox and James Lindsley have the difficult job of verbally creating the sets, mood, scares, action. With more expository monologues and narration than action, THE TURN OF THE SCREW sometimes felt like just a story being read to the audience-think costumed story time at the library with professional actors-instead of a play being shown to you.
But with this narration and exposition, the play interestingly possesses the freedom to become whatever it wants to be in each individual audience members' mind. Imaginations don't need much to conjure up terrifying images, and THE TURN OF THE SCREW-whether consciously or not-opens the door for imaginations to create their own visuals and run as wild as a ghostly figure on the moors.
Paulina Fricke-Fox is luminous as the Governess and James Lindsley is skillfully versatile, nimbly switching between his multiple characters. Together they form a chemistry that felt stiff in the beginning, but warmed to intuitive, genuine interactions between the characters.
The Filigree Theatre's THE TURN OF THE SCREW confidently sets tone and atmosphere but lacks visual stimulation and excitement. It relies solely on the actors' skill to effectively deliver the dialogue and create the visuals. Sometimes it worked, other times it did not. If you're looking for a plump, visually resplendent show this may not the experience for you. But, if you're prepared to dive into your imagination and see where your mind takes you in this haunting story, definitely check out The Filigree Theatre's production of THE TURN OF THE SCREW.
Photo Credit: Steve Rogers Photography and The Filigree Theatre
January 31 - February 09, 2020
Romy Suskin Photography Studio
2617 S. First St.
Austin, TX, 78704