First performed in London in 1938, Patrick Hamilton’s “Angel Street” has endured the test of time and is now Olympic Theatre Arts’ first play of the new year.
It is a story of narcissism, psychological domestic abuse and crime, cast and crew members say, but also one of victory, justice, hope and wit.
“This (was written by) someone who loved words, someone who respected the human mind, and who was clearly ahead of his time enough to consider it an important story to tell,” director Ginny Holladay said.
She said that she generally isn’t attracted to working with older plays, but that “this one has not lost its appeal, and I don’t think it will for a long time.”
Performances run Feb. 11- 27, with shows at 2 p.m on Sundays, and 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and a pay-what-you-will performance on Thursday, Feb. 24.
Holladay said that despite the darkness inherent in the play, it ends with justice and hope. She said that the play is a beautiful learning opportunity about looking after our fellow humans and “we leave the audience feeling very hopeful and motivated to move forward with life.”
On that note, OTA requests all play goers to wear masks while attending, and to bring proof of vaccination or a COVID test within the last 72 hours as well as ID.
“Angel Street,” also known as “Gas Light,” has a more than 80-year history of successful productions, including two acclaimed films, and is the genesis of the term “gas-lighting.” According to Internet Broadway Database, it remains one of the longest-running non-musicals in Broadway history with 1,295 total performances.
Set in Victorian London, the play centers around the relationships between Mr. Manningham and Mrs. Manningham — referred to as Bella by the cast — and Inspector Rough, who seeks to arrest Mr. Manningham for a past crime. Subplots involve the character development of the Manninghams’ household help.
The play is deeper and more clever than the plot, according to the cast.
“It’s such a hugely emotional and internal story,” said Holladay, who directed the play once before, as her final project while earning her degree in theatre performance with an emphasis in directing at Belhaven University in Mississippi.
“What goes on internally is way bigger than reality can depict.”
To that end, Holladay, the production crew and cast have prepared a number of surprises for even those who know the story well, ranging from set and lighting choices to choice of actor.
“Essentially, come expecting to see some familiar and some very unfamiliar depictions of Victorian England,” Holladay said.
Marissa LaJambe, OTA’s head of props, said,“This play probably has the most hidden meaning to it of any show I’ve worked on.”
Head carpenter Ethan Holladay Jessee and scenic painter Jayden Dawkins, scenic painter, were “a really good example of collaboration,” said Holladay, who gave them a vague initial description of what she was hoping for: 1880s London, but in an “alternate universe.”
In a twist, Bella will be played by two different actors, each appearing opposite Sean Stone as Mr. Manningham, on different nights and days.
“They both found the core of her character,” Holladay said, “bringing their own unique flavors.”
Sierra Brittal of Sequim, described the approximately 34-year-old Mrs. Manningham as “intelligent, but maybe surprised by it, with street smarts and good figuring skills, a woman of quiet strength.”
Brittal said she has been studying at the Freehold Theatre in Seattle but put that on hold to take part in this play in her hometown.
“Sierra brings a really strong physicality to the character,” said Holladay. “She has a really strong intuition for what goes on with her body.”
Angie Roiniotis described Bella Manningham as “clever, empathetic, compassionate, and so much stronger than she knows.”
Roiniotis commutes 40 minutes from Shine, where she is a mushroom farmer and illustrator, to be in this play. This is her first time on stage in 10 years.
“Angie really starts with the emotion inside,” said Holladay.
In another unusual interpretation of the play, Detective Rough is played by a woman, Maude Eisele.
The cast agreed that Eisele was perfect for the part, and as a woman, brings different and interesting context to the character.
Holladay described Eisele as a very experienced actor. “Maude is amazing — one of my favorite people I ever worked with.”
Tara Dupont, one of the few actors in this play that have appeared previously on OTA’s stage, is understudy for Eisele.
Stone, as Mr. Manningham, looks literally like Mr. Manningham as described in the play, Holladay said.
Stone described his character as nasty, toxic, and “there’s no better term than narcissistic.” He said he was reluctant to play the character at first, who he said is so far from how he himself interacts with the world.
“After I read it I felt dirty,” Stone recalled, but then he decided to take on the challenge.
“He has really pushed himself for this role,” said Holladay, “because he is really different from the character.”
The five-person cast is rounded out by Julie Borden, playing Elizabeth the older housekeeper, and Danielle Kolste, playing Nancy the younger maid.
Elizabeth is Borden’s first role since college.
“I just thought it’d be interesting to get involved with the community,” Borden said.
She describes her character as sympathetic to Bella Manningham and as one of the people who sees through Mr. Manningham’s manipulations.
Holladay said Borden’s character has the least lines but plays perhaps the most vital role in the action of the play.
“Julie communicates with her eyes on the stage to the audience so vividly and so beautifully,” Holladay said. “She takes just a tiny bit of information and expresses it so beautifully. A small part in lines but a huge effect on the story.”
The role of 19-year-old Nancy is Kolste’s debut in Sequim and her first role since high school.
“She’s the maid that wants to land Mr. Manningham for her status, get his money … she’ll do whatever it takes to land him,” Kolste said. “She thinks she’s the one in control, but she’s the pawn.
“She’s a lot of fun and very talented,” said Holladay of Kolste.