Reduxion Theatre convincingly Terrifies with “The Woman in Black”
Elizabeth Hurd Published: October 2oth, 2016
Susan Hill’s 1983 horror novella called ‘The Woman in Black’ inspired Stephen Mallatratt to write an equally frightening stage play of the same name. “The Woman in Black” is the second longest running play on London’s West End after “The Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie. And now Reduxion Theatre in Oklahoma City seeks to terrify Oklahomans with the suspenseful story.
“The Woman in Black” directed by Tonia Sina uses old-fashioned scare tactics rather than spurting blood and gore, and is a journey into fear and tragedy.
A man haunted by an unrelenting specter hires an actor/director to help him bring to life the story of his past experience as a form of exorcism. As he begins to read the story out loud, the man he has hired cannot help but criticize his delivery. After a bit of discussion they elect to play out the story with the younger fellow being portrayed by the professional and the man whose name is Kipps taking all the other parts. In the program, the professional theatrical expert is listed as Kipps. He is portrayed with Edwardian flair by Matthew Ellis. The part of the distraught citizen is listed as ‘actor’ and he is skillfully brought to life with a pinch of medieval salt by David Fletcher-Hall. “The Woman in Black” has only two actors.
They begin to ‘rehearse’ on the empty stage of a theater, with the props and cast off furnishings from many past shows; some draped with sheets to eliminate dust. Chris Evans has created a wondrous set that is mysterious, unsettling and quite beautiful. On this abandoned stage the actors use the available props to create the necessary settings as their characters journey through the events. Because the ‘proper’ props are not necessarily available, the audience may enjoy imagining an old trunk as a desk, a bed or a pony trap. The play moves forward with dialogue, and the background information is crucial, so as the audience listens intently to the speakers, suddenly an apparition appears terrifying the two characters as well as the audience. As they create the locale where the events take place, one is transported to the sinister misty moor. This is a place where one must stay on the path as any deviation may be fatal; drowning in the frigid waters that look so much like solid land. As a young man Kipps, a solicitor, must go through the papers of the recently deceased Mrs. Alice Drablow. In her papers he discovers the clues to a tragedy that a young woman is unable to accept, even in death. In her malevolence she ensures that anyone she encounters must suffer the same fate she suffered.
Tonia Sina has just recently become the Artistic Director for Reduxion, and she is off to a fine start this season directing the suspenseful thriller. “The Woman in Black” has a two man cast of Ellis and Fletcher-Hall who are well suited to the challenges intrinsically revealing in this rather convoluted plot with a minimum of confusion. Although the woman in black is not present and therefore not portrayed by an actor she is very much a character in the show, possibly portrayed by stage manager Christine Jolly or assistant director Jeana Forman Gerring. These spooky apparitions briefly appear draped in widow’s weeds and may sometimes be merely a lighting effect imagined by lighting designer Mitchell Laflin or perhaps solely in the imagination of the patron seeing the apparition. The costumes by Jeffrey Meek certainly increase her mystery and the mood established by Dr. Michael Lee’s musical composition draws patrons into the cold embrace of the misty moors.
“The Woman in Black” plays through October 29, 2016 at the Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Avenue. For further information visit www.reduxion.com or call the box office at 405-297-2264.