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Jay Benson & Matt Dentino.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK presented by Falcon Theater through Nov. 1. Click here for more information on the production.
Falcon Theater chills up the Halloween season with the haunting tale of THE WOMAN IN BLACK. You may recognize the title from the 2012 feature film starring Daniel Radcliffe, that was based on this play. As is often the case, the original work outshines the motion picture adaption.
The play’s cast consists of two male actors. In this production, all roles are well-played by Jay Benson and Matt Dentino. Vocally, both actors do well with their respective accents, but I would have liked to see more physical differences between their characters. There is more to a character than changing the accent and adding/removing a piece of clothing. Mannerism and how people stand and carry themselves varies between individuals and I would have liked to seen a bit more of that.
During the performance, Dentino had a tendency to drop his eyes and address the floor. Be sure to keep that chin up so the audience can see your face. When speaking as the main character, I felt he employed a few-too-many pregnant pauses in his speech when his character is scared and confused. This slows the pacing. I would have liked to have seen other options for expressing those emotions.
In watching the show, it was the lighting design and execution that caused many of the issues for me, and I know part of this problem is due to limitations of the small venue. “Outside the play,” when the stage was fully lit, you could see actors cross between hot and cold lighting areas. “Inside the play,” the tight area-lighting, at times, seemed to constrain the actors ability to move, resulting in a bit too much sitting and talking for me. There were also times when the angles of the lighting would throw a shadow onto most of an actor’s face, masking their eyes. In the coach scenes, having Benson, as the driver, freeze during Kipps narration to the audience looked awkward, given the length of the monologue and the fact that both actors were fully lit.
The transitions “out of the play” were a bit clunky. If the lighting change was supposed to signal the transition than it needs to happen before the actor begins their lines. A pause, and a physical movement out of the scene with the light cue would have kept the transitions from feeling so abrupt. Another issue occurs when Dentino (as Kipps) reacts to something he sees upstage. We follow his gaze and a lighting special comes up, and then the actor, who is now slightly visible, steps into the light. Having the actor under the special when it came up would have been more effective. I was also confused by the decision to have Benson do some of his narration in a shadowed corner of the set. If the actor can’t be seen, you might as well record the dialogue as his physical presence is not adding anything to the scene. The bedroom lighting effect worked very well, but it may need to be bumped up a notch or two for patrons in the back of the theater. The sound design for the show was smartly handled and well executed.
Directors Tracy M. Shoster and Ted. J. Weil keep the show tightly focused and well-paced throughout. They are mostly-successful in creating the appropriate spooky atmosphere.
Full disclosure: Since I attended Falcon’s invited preview performance on Thursday night, some of the tech may not have been fully realized. Other issues may also have been addressed before Friday’s opening.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK is a well-done and entertaining ghost story for a chilly October evening. There are no content or language issues to prevent families with pre-teens from attending.
My rating: 3.75 out of 5
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