Saturday, November 5, 2011

Theater Review: The Woman in Black -- Ivoryton

Ian Lowe, Steve L. Barron. Photo: Anne Hudson
A Ghost Story Within a Play Within a Play Appears in the Mist
By Lauren Yarger
A playwright endeavors to tell the scariest ghost story he's ever heard, but will the real ghost let him?
A creeping mist, a mysterious veiled woman and a play within a play are conjured up at Ivoryton Playhouse in Stephen Mallatratt's play The Woman in Black, based on the novel by Susan Hill (the show has been running for 23 years in London's West End).

Kipps (Steven L. Barron) must tell the story of his experiences settling the estate of a reclusive woman who lived in a rambling estate on an island in a remote part of England, despite his lack of acting experience and the fact that he probably will put his audience to sleep with the more-than-five-hour long play he has written. So he hires an actor (Ian Lowe) to advise him on how to do it.

The happy actor indulges him and decides the best way to proceed is for his to assume the role of Kipps, while the playwright assumes the roles of all the other characters. The actor starts adapting props left backstage at the Victorian theater where they are going to present the piece (Tony Andrea, scenic design) and surprises Kipps with recorded effects (Tate R. Burmeister, design) to produce the sounds of London streets, a ride in a pony and trap and other mysterious noises Kipps encountered at the estate.

As the tale unfolds, Kipps becomes more skilled at portraying the island's odd inhabitants, all spooked by the appearance of a ghostly, gaunt looking woman clad in black who wanders the property and family graveyard. Who is she and why does a child die tragically every time she is spotted? The real script is a little redundant and slow moving at times, but stick with it and you'll be caught up in the chilling ghost story.

Directed by Maggie McGlone Jennings, the actors give skilled performances of characters portraying characters (Barron, morphing from bad actor to various village dwellers to a man who is fear personified, really is superb). Andrea and lighting designer Doug Harry create some ghostly effects and a creeping fog adds to the atmosphere. Voiceovers are by Alana Lee Burke. Costumes are by Vickie Blake.

The Woman in Black appears at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., through Nov. 20. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm;  Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.).

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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