BWW Review: Mesa Encore Theatre Presents THE WOMAN IN BLACK
Horror! Mystery! The wrath and revenge of a wraith! The perfect elements for an old-fashioned Gothic ghost story! THE WOMAN IN BLACK is that, in spades, enough so to have garnered high praise as Susan Hill's 1983 novella, twice made into a film, and adapted by Stephen Mallatratt into a play that is now the second longest running nonmusical in London's West End (after The Mousetrap).
Under Virginia Olivieri's inspired direction, the play (now at Mesa Encore Theatre's Black Box through October 22nd) is more cerebral than scary, gifted in its production by two excellent actors, J. Kevin Tallent and Tim Fiscus who deliver Mallatratt's words with the articulation and panache the deserve. (As Actor often notes, not good enough "to be an Irving," a reference to Sir Henry Irving, first actor in England to be awarded a knighthood.)
There's an intricate story to be told about an early life experience by an elderly Mr. Kipps (Tallent) that in the telling might offer catharsis from a long suffered grief. He engages an Actor (Fiscus) to coach him in the narration to his family. Soon enough, it's clear to both that Kipps lacks the requisite talent for an effective, if not dramatic delivery. So it befalls Actor to recount and relive the tale.
What tragedy transpired at Eel Marsh House, the home of the late Mrs. Drablow, whose papers Kipp was commissioned to review, is at the heart of this play. To say more would be to reveal too much and take away from the play's twists and chilling denouement.
It's a simple set and conventional effects (a slamming door, cries in the night, and, of course, the recurring spirit) that Olivieri leverages as much as possible. I can only imagine, however, how much more dramatic and engaging the production might be if this director had more resources with which to work.
Photo credit Wade Moran