BWW Review: Ottawa Little Theatre's GASLIGHT Thrills This Halloween Season
The Ottawa Little Theatre's production of Patrick Hamilton's psychological thriller, Gaslight, takes the audience back to nineteenth century England and into the home of Bella (Heather Archibald) and her husband, Jack Manningham (J.T. Morris). Bella seems to be slowly going out of her mind, just like her mother did, as evidenced by her hiding of random household objects for no apparent reason, as well as her lapses in memory. Jack taunts Bella cruelly, rewarding her for being good with the promise of a night out at the theatre, before almost instantly rescinding the gift because she has misplaced a grocery receipt. Jack further threatens to place Bella in a lunatic asylum if her behaviour doesn't improve.
When Jack goes out, a detective named Rough (Geoff Gruson) comes to the house, seeking Bella. He can see that Bella is distraught and, because of his caring demeanour, Bella confides her worst fear to him - she is going out of her mind. She tells Rough that, aside from hiding insignificant household items, she also hears noises when she is alone in the house and has noticed other odd things, like the gas lights dimming downstairs, as if someone is on the top level of the house, even though that floor is unused and off-limits.
Rough gives Bella the house's macabre history, providing her with another, more horrifying, explanation for these events. Together, they set out to find the truth.
The 1944 movie version, starring Ingrid Bergman in the role of Bella, won two Oscars. The play also gave rise to the term "gaslighting" - to psychologically abuse someone until they question their own sanity.
Morris was impressive in his role as the sadistic, unfeeling, Jack. Archibald was a convincing Bella, nailing her growing despondency and increasing hysteria. Gruson channelled his inner Hercule Poirot and gave a solid performance that would have made Agatha Christie proud. Cheryl Jackson and Kate Boone were also commendable in their roles as the Manningham's two servants, Elizabeth, the loyal housekeeper, and Nancy, the coquettish maid. The set design struck the perfect chord to pull the audience right into the Victorian era.
Gaslight is recommended for an enjoyable night at the theatre this Halloween season. It is playing at the Ottawa Little Theatre through November 9, 2019. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to http://www.ottawalittletheatre.com/gaslight.