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Castaways Repertory Theater Angel Street

By • Oct 6th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Angel Street by Patrick Hamilton
Castaways Repertory Theater
A.J. Ferlazzo Building, Woodbridge, VA
Through October 17th
$14/$10 Seniors, Military and Students
2:00, with one intermission
Reviewed October 2nd, 2009

Castaways Repertory Theater’s (CRT) production of Angel Street, a “Victorian thriller” also known as Gas Light, was both engaging and suspenseful. It tells the story of a young wife who helps solve a murder mystery despite her supposed madness. Written by Patrick Hamilton in the late 1930s and directed this year by Marji Jepperson, Angel Street features a fine cast of talented actors. While set design, decoration, and lighting were nothing spectacular, they were very adequate.

Katherine Bisulca (Mrs. Manningham) was lovely in a demure costume and elaborate coif. Her acting was a bit wooden at the start, but improved as the show went on. The main criticism I have with Miss Bisulca’s performance is her lack of vocal variation. She expressed good emotion, but she seemed only to speak in a low register even in the midst of her character’s hysterics.

Miss Bisulca gave her character credibility, however. It was apparent that she had thought about her character as a person, as well as a role. She effectively portrayed her character’s internal dynamics and motivations.

Bill Kitzerow (Mr. Manningham) ultimately gave a good performance, but it took almost a whole act for him to warm up. He seemed lethargic rather than malevolent during the first act, which confused me because his character is horrid for the rest of the show. Mr. Manningham’s chemistry with his love-interest Nancy (Rebecca Fischler) also seemed rather forced; his passion was rehearsed, not genuine.

By the third act, Mr. Kitzerow had really upped his energy and gave a convincing performance. There was no question by the end of the show that his character was truly disturbed.

The best actor of this production was James McDaniel (Detective Rough). His energy exploded onstage and maintained marvelously through the rest of the production. He acted with abandon and precision which is refreshing to find in community theater. His vocal inflection and animation were excellent. There were nuances, especially in his character’s attraction to Mrs. Manningham, which could have been played up more, but on the whole his performance was both convincing and compelling.

Every actor in this production excelled at script interpretation. The story was easily understood and propelled forward every time an actor delivered a line. Even when characters were silent acting, their body language spoke volumes.

The set, designed by a three-person team including Jarret Baker, Lynn Taylor, and Gavin Tameris, was quite sufficient though not particularly exciting. It was simple and featured three doors and a set of stairs that were each used at points in the production.

The set decoration was not very rich or textured. An 1800s sitting room is generally warm and cluttered, but this set was cool and spacious and simplistic which made it feel more modern. While doors and stairs were used effectively, sometimes it felt like the set pieces were just taking up space. On a purely aesthetic note, the drapes over the window were too low for the wall they hung on. Set decoration certainly did not detract from the play, but neither did it do much to enhance the setting.

Lighting plays a prominent role in Mrs. Manningham’s evening as well as the audience’s. Downstage was well lit, but upstage was very dark and therefore made it difficult to see the actors. Perhaps it was deliberate, since upstage has been bright in past productions, but the darkness was distracting. However, the use and execution of the infamous gas light was perfect during this production.

Castaways’ production of Angel Street was highly character driven. It featured a fine cast telling a chilling story on an adequate set. All things considered, this was a simple, but well-executed production. If I had to do it again, I surely would.

If you go and see the production on a Friday, make sure to give yourself plenty of time. The intersections on Route 1 leading up to the Ferlazzo building often bottleneck and cause a delay of 20 minutes or more.

Director’s Notes

Gaslight by Bristish dramatist Patrick Hamilton, was first presented in London in 1938. Subsequent production on Broadway was called Angel Street. It also became a movie in 1940, and again in 1944. The latter version starred Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and was the screen debut of Angela Lansbury. It was also a radio play in 1947. It was a great success and it remains one of the longest running non-musicals on Broadway.

It is not a murder mystery as such, but is billed as a “Victorian thriller.” It is the story of a young bride, Bella Manningham and her overbearing husband. Actually, the main character in the story is the gaslight. It is partly the reason that Mrs. Manningham is convinced that she is going mad.

The play all takes place on an appropriately foggy day in London towards the end of the 19th century.

Such was the popularity of the play and the movie that the term “Gaslighting” became used as a verb. I recently read a modern mystery in which a young film editor was “Gaslighting” his wife, a young actress. Only instead of using light fixtures he inserted subliminal messages into the old movies his wife liked to watch. (Dead Pan by Jane Dentiger)

Enjoy the show. Marji Jepperson

Photo Gallery

Rough (James McDaniel) consoles Mrs. Manninghan (Katherine Bisulca) Mr. Manningham (Bill Kitzerow) glares at Rough (James McDaniel) while Rough consoles Mrs. Manningham (Katherine Bisulca) as their 2 maids, Nancy (Rebe
Rough (James McDaniel) consoles Mrs. Manninghan (Katherine Bisulca)
Mr. Manningham (Bill Kitzerow) glares at Rough (James McDaniel) while Rough consoles Mrs. Manningham (Katherine Bisulca) as their 2 maids, Nancy (Rebe
Mr. Manningham (Bill Kitzerow) threatens Mrs. Manningham (Katherine Bisulca)
Mr. Manningham (Bill Kitzerow) threatens Mrs. Manningham (Katherine Bisulca)

Photos by Zina Bleck for Castaways Repertory Theater.

Cast

  • Mrs. Manningham: Katherine Bisulca
  • Mr. Manningham: Bill Kitzerow
  • Nancy: Rebecca Fischler
  • Elizabeth: Kat Zwingle
  • Rough: James McDaniel
  • Policeman/Inspector: Gavin Tameris
  • Policeman: Richard Prien

Production Crew

  • Producer: Zina Bleck
  • Director: Marji Jepperson
  • Stage Manager: Rich Prien
  • Set Design: Jarret Baker, Lynn Taylor, Gavin Tameris
  • Set Construction: August Kruesi, Rich Prien, Lynn Taylor, Gavin Tameris, Ken Woods
  • Set Painting: Katherine Bisulca, Zina Bleck, Tom Hannon, Katherine Sahlberg
  • Set Decoration: Zina Bleck, Marji Jepperson
  • Props: Zina Bleck, Marji Jepperson
  • Special Effects: Gavin Tameris
  • Costumes: Zina Bleck, Marji Jepperson
  • Hair/Makeup: The Cast
  • Sound Design: Natalie Woods
  • Light Design: Lisa Johnston, Ryan Johnston
  • Sound Tech: Mary Brick, Erin DeCaprio
  • Light Tech: Katre Ka M. Goins-Williams, Erin DeCaprio
  • Prop Crew: Kat Zwingle, Rebecca Fischler
  • Running Crew: August Kruesi, Gavin Tameris, Lynn Taylor
  • Front of House Coordinator: Kathy Sahlberg
  • Publicity: Don Wilson
  • Art: Herb Tax
  • Photography: Zina Bleck

Disclaimer: Castaways Repertory Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.

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