Monday, October 9, 2017

reviews - THE WOMAN IN BLACK - Mesa Encore Theatre

J. Kevin Tallent and Tim Fiscus
photo by Candice C. Thornton and Wade Moran
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through October 22nd.

"...Stephen Mallatratt's theatrical adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 gothic novel "The Woman in Black" is one well-crafted drama...Mesa Encore Theatre's taught production is fortunate to have two talented Valley actors who elicit plenty of thrills and chills in this spooky ghost story....Arthur Kipps has hired a younger actor to help him dramatize the events that he experienced years ago when he was a solicitor. Kipps was sent to attend the funeral and sort through the papers of a reclusive widow who lived in an old house on a marsh in a remote city in Northern England...Kipps...encounters strange and frightening noises, voices, and ghostly images. The traumatic experience and the appearance of an apparition of a woman dressed in black..have haunted him for years and he believes that acting out the events for his family and friends will free him of his ghostly nightmares....Mallatratt's idea to turn Hill's novel into a play within a play and have two actors play all of the parts is a brilliant move. ...Mallatratt also adds a coda at the finale that extends Hill's story and provides a nice, spooky ending to the whole affair.While MET's modern black box space is far from an old fashioned traditional Victorian theater, director Virginia Olivieri has done a very good job in instilling a timeless sense to the production and ensuring her actors embody their numerous roles explicitly. Tim Fiscus and J. Kevin Tallent play the Actor and Kipps, respectively, and both are excellent in providing different voices, body language and gestures, along with the use of simple props and costume pieces, so the many parts they play are distinguishable....Tallent is excellent in portraying the numerous men the younger Kipps encounters on his journey. Fiscus has the slightly meatier part of the young Kipps...Fiscus' haunted, traumatized portrayal of this young man is superb. As good as this adaptation is, and while it only runs two hours, there are a few drawbacks due to the abundance of detailed narration and the fact that many people who haven't seen the play before will come into this expecting to be scared relentlessly throughout. The first act is more setup and takes a while for all of the elements of the piece to fully jell, but the second act is rewarding with more of the spookier moments and shocks...Olivieri's staging is smart and not overly showy, and her efforts, coupled with set designer Cheryl Briley's simple yet effective set pieces and Emma Walz's evocative sound design, quickly create, with just a few chairs, a bench and a chest, the various locations of the story, including a horse drawn carriage and the swampy, deadly marsh. Matt Stetler's lighting design provides nice shifts between the rehearsal segments of the play and the scenes of the play within the play, including some provocative spooky dark moments...While it may not have the explicit imagery of blood and guts and horrific scenes that modern-day movie audiences are used to seeing in R-rated horror films, The Woman in Black is filled with spooky moments, some sudden shocks, and detailed characters that are the basis for a good old-fashioned ghost story. With two talented actors, concise direction, and creative elements that are both subtle and scary, MET's solid production of this long running West End hit is ghostly fun. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...The tradition of Gothic storytelling remains intact in playwright Stephen Mallatratt’s faithful adaptation...Arthur Kipps (J. Kevin Tallent) ..has written a manuscript telling the story of something disturbing that happened to him thirty years ago when he was a young lawyer. ...a younger man, a more experienced actor (Tim Fiscus) ...will be Kipps, and the older gentleman will take on all the other, smaller, supporting roles. And so begins the play....With just a change of hats, a glare, a glance, and a slight alteration of an English country accent, Tallent .. in an instant became among many others, a passenger on a train, a local landowner, and a driver to an old-fashioned pony and trap.As the younger, more experienced actor, Tim Fiscus...takes full control, transporting us to the brooding, atmospheric setting of the house on the marsh with impassioned descriptions of what he’s seeing, feeling and experiencing to the point where we can practically see and feel the same things ourselves. Under director Virginia Oliveri’s guidance, miming the rescue of a small dog called Spider who is drowning in the marsh becomes as much a nail-biter as if we were watching the real thing.
...Emma Walz’s atmospheric sound design and its timing is excellent....delivers its own treat with minimal tricks, but with a lot of creativity born of a production with practically zero in the budget. ...sound and suggestion create the illusion that you’re there, in the house on the marsh. It’s very effective. And with a woman dressed in lacy black silently hovering in the background, it’s also effectively spooky." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...Under Virginia Olivieri's inspired direction, the play...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. ...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....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." - Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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