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September 10, 2013 > The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black

By Janet Grant
Photos By Terry Sullivan

A good old fashioned ghost story tenses the body in fearful anticipation, raises the hair on the back of the neck, and gets a heart to beating just a little faster and pounding a little louder. Douglas Morrisson Theatre's presentation of "The Woman in Black" manages to employ all these elements in a chilly, spine-tingling night of pure entertainment, courtesy of the talented direction of Marilyn Langbehn.

"The Woman in Black," adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from Susan Hill's book, is probably best known in the 2012 movie-form starring Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame). However, this play is definitely not the movie. It more faithfully resembles Hill's book, yet with a few twists of its own.

The play takes place in a small Victorian Theatre where Arthur Kripps (C. Conrad Cady) attempts to exorcise his haunted past by recounting certain tragic events from his life to a hired actor (Mark Frazier). He hopes with the help of the actor to tell his story to an invited audience.

C. Conrad Cady's performance as Kripps is wonderful from the start, where he gingerly begins with a lackluster reading from his memoirs. But his real brilliance shines with his portrayal of every other character from his past in his desperate effort to act out his story. From the sniffling partner in his law firm, to Sam Dailey the landowner, Jerome the solicitor, the village innkeeper, and finally Keckwick, the taciturn carriage driver, Mr. Cady effectively and believably moves the play forward.

Mark Frazier as The Actor, is equally effective as the perfect foil to Kripp's shy and halting performance as he rather annoyingly and incessantly interrupts with verbosity and constructive criticism. In an interesting twist of the play within the play, The Actor portrays Kripps himself and he shows true empathy for the real Kripps as the story unfolds. And Mr. Frazier abounds in energy and flexibility. From bombastic-to-jovial-to completely terrified, he expertly runs the gamut of expression throughout the play.

Both actors blended well together and with very convincing British accents of various dialects, I might add. And then there's The Lady in Black herself, artfully rendered by Cynthia Lagodzinski. Though not a speaking part, Ms. Lagdzinski's Woman was powerful, ominous and really, really, creepy!

With amazing acting coupled with minimal props, staging, lighting, and recorded sound effects, DMT did an exceptional job of convincing the audience that low tech works even when left to an audience's imagination. How else can you believe that a trunk and a chair can equal a carriage, or that with a simple change of coat and hat you are a completely different character? And let's now forget Kripp's dog companion - Spider, the invisible dog!

And of course chills abound with a creaking rocking chair, a locked door that opens itself, a veiled graveyard, a pale visage looming everywhere, and disembodied screams.

Well deserved kudos go to Tom R. Earlywine (Technical Director and Prop Master), George F. Ledo (Set Designer), Will McCandless (Sound Designer), Matthew O'Donnell (Lighting Designer), John Lewis (Costume Designer), Terry Sullivan (Production Manager), and Susan E. Evans (Artistic Director).

If an atmospheric, spooky, good old-fashioned story of tragedy, revenge, mystery and gloomy specters is your cup of tea, then DMT's "The Woman in Black" is the play to see.

"The Woman in Black"
Friday, September 26 - Sunday, September 29
8 p.m. (Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.)
(Saturday, Sept 21: 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.)
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22331 N. 3rd Street, Hayward
(510) 881-6777 (Tuesday-Friday: 12:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.)

Tickets: $10 - $29

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