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Shadows, subtlety: ‘The Woman in Black’
The chills and thrills were bordering on too real in the delightfully spooky but smartly executed production by Olympic Theatre Arts of Stephen Mallatratt’s “The Woman in Black.” Wonderful uses of lighting, or more often the lack thereof, coupled with a minimalistic set and a few well-utilized props kept the focus on the actors and moved the scare tactics past jolting noises and visual shocks into a deeper psychological fear.
When I walked for the first time into the Olympic Theatre Arts’ beautiful facilities, I was quite impressed with the venue. Renovated in 2006, the lobby is comfortably furnished and the Main Stage Theater is tastefully but elegantly decorated.
This established a level of prestige and professionalism, assuring me that OTA is no casual community theater; it is an organization with high standards for bringing quality theater to the community of Sequim.
This standard was carried on and even surpassed in the production I was about to experience.
Throughout the show, well-planned surprises caught me off guard. They kept the audience uneasy and guessing, never letting the comfort of familiarity dull our senses. When anything might be the source of a scare, you pay a lot more attention to details.
As the lights dimmed for the beginning of the show the customary “ladies and gentlemen” announcement asking the audience to turn off their phones, etc., turned into a warning, “This is a ghost story,” promising, “If you don’t believe in ghosts, you soon will.” This clever diversion from the norm was tame and rather comical, but let the audience know from the very beginning that nothing in this production is quite what it seems to be.
Complete silence and darkness settled on the theater for just a bit too long to be comfortable when a naked light bulb on a tall lamp stand came to life in a blinding flash at the front of the stage. A meek man in a frumpy suit wandered onto the stage and began to mumble, almost inaudibly reading from a script he held in his hands. This was Ron Graham, the director of the production playing a character with a story that “must be told!”
About a minute into this painfully shy monologue a voice booms from the back of the theater giving harsh but much needed advice to the sorry chap on stage. “Kipps,” played by Zachery Moorman, confidently strolls up next to Graham’s character, referred to as “Actor” in the script. I’d seen Moorman just moments before. He was the friendly young usher who helped me to my seat for the play, another surprising twist.
A theater coaching session commences onstage as Kipps helps the “Actor” to convey his story with the audience in mind. As the play unfolds we watch a rehearsal for an autobiographical play written by the character “Actor,” in which Kipps plays the lead role.
A play within a play emerges as the “Actor” gets more comfortable onstage and Kipps is drawn deeper into the harrowing story.
Through the brilliant acting of both Graham and Moorman this gradually morphs into something far more real and terrifying.
This raises the question, if a play can become their reality, are we the audience still safe?
Taylor Ackley, a Sequim native, is the Sequim Gazette’s newest Arts and Entertainment columnist. His column appears monthly. Reach him at email@example.com.