Little Theatre of Alexandria The Woman in BlackBy Xandra Weaver • Jun 19th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Little Theatre of Alexandria
Little Theatre of Alexandria, Alexandria, VA
Through June 23rd
Reviewed June 16th, 2012
Woman in Black, a horror play with a stunningly talented three person cast, can only be watched after the comfort of the day is long gone. The stage comes to life after 10pm at night, and without an intermission, the play keeps a hold on you for every second of the hour and a half the story needs to unfold. Such reassuring comforts as an intermission were wisely put aside in favor of taking you more fully into the story and keeping you on the edge of your seat.
The play has a device wherein the first “actor” you see is a business man, Arthur Kipps, with a story to tell, but no skill in performing it. After the first few lines are read, stoically, from a diary more like a tome, an actor runs up on stage to halt the litany. This actor (played by Erik Harrison) slowly convinces Kipps (played by Elliott Bales) to rethink his monotonous approach to telling his story, and reenact the events as if they are happening again. When Kipps protests, the Actor compromises by letting Kipps be the minor characters in the scenes, while he acts as Kipps.
Premise in hand, Kipps is much more comfortable, throwing himself into such entertaining characters as a Scottish landowner, a cab driver, and a nervous and stuttering clerk. All the while the Actor is performing Kipps’ life as he experienced it, a low-level clerk put upon to sort out the estate of a dead woman who lived in a haunted house. As the events unfold, the bare bones set is put to work as various offices, graveyards, rooms and passageways.
The production rightly focuses its attentions squarely on the two main actors and keeps the set and effects in the background. Their performances were stellar, and they never once let the pace slow or lost the audience. Bales is brilliant as a stodgy but afflicted lawyer, who has the greatest arc in the show. His character starts the journey absolutely insistent that his story not become a spectacle, and by the end he has found that theatricality can bring more to a story than any cold reading. On top of that, he transforms himself physically and vocally every scene, going from a received British accent to a Scottish brogue to a common man’s growl with ease. Of note was one character who needed to stutter practically every line, and Bales layered that one characteristic with constantly blinking eyes, nervous facial tics and a hangdog slouching way of moving.
Harrison as well was a powerhouse of dramatic energy. His “Actor” persona takes over the stage from the moment he speaks, and his combination of confidence and encouragement make him both likable and a bit dashing. When he inhabits the role of the lawyer, he gives us a wonderful glimpse of who Kipps used to be, a no-nonsense soul with a confident façade that he can’t keep up in the face of the horrors that are visited upon him.
The final actor is the Lady herself, played by Erin Gallalee. Her costume and physicality were wonderful, menacing and creepy for most of the play. Unfortunately, in a few spots, her arms waved a bit much and came across less as being creepy and more like she was off-balance in her flowing black dress and veil. In addition, the makeup made her face gaunt and pale, which would be appropriate for most ghostly apparitions, but the characters kept referring to her skin as deformed and having the appearance of melting off the bone, in which case a more pronounced makeup effect would have been helpful.
The sound design was wonderful, bringing the audience into the sparse stage and creating an atmosphere. It was such a helpful device that it honestly could have been more present, especially since Kipps and the Actor have a conversation about using recorded sounds for a more theatrical presentation of the story. A dog is mimed for a large portion of the play, and would have really been brought to life if more sound effects had been used to signify its presence.
In all, this tale was full of European flavor through excellent dialects, terror from unexpected visitations and subtly executed effects. Moreover, the acting was engaging from the beginning to the end, and carried the audience through the thrilling horror of meeting the Woman in Black, and they will never be the same.
Note: There were smoke machine effects used during the performance.
Photos by Doug Olmsted
- Arthur Kipps: Elliott Bales
- The Actor: Erik Harrison
- The Woman in Black: Erin Gallalee
- Producers: Sharon Field, Rance Willis
- Director: Kristina Friedgen
- Stage Manager: Margaret Evans-Joyce
- Assisted by: David Doll, Robert Kraus, Eddy Roger Parker
- Set Decoration: Russell Wyland
- Set Painting: Leslie Reed
- Costume Design: Susan Boyd
- Wardrobe: Bobbie Herbst
- Sound Design: Alan Wray
- Light Design: Ken and Patti Crowley
- Master Electrician: Nancy Owens
- Properties: Margaret Snow
- Accent Coach: Carol Strachan
Disclaimer: Little Theatre of Alexandria provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8212.
Xandra Weaver has a great love of the process of theater and the creation of art that has led her into working both behind the scenes and onstage. Her career includes working for many years providing sound and lights for both professional and amateur shows as well as makeup work for a feature film. At college, she specialized in makeup to earn her theater degree, and discovered a love for directing and playwrighting. She's also been a nominee for the DC area theater WATCH awards for her work with the company of The Producers with The Arlington Players.