Archive for November, 2013

Allen’s Alley Returns Highlighting The Unique 24 Hour Play Festival

November 24, 2013

Scan 123590003It’s been a while since I’ve put together an edition of Allen’s Alley and I’m still planning a follow up on the Dinner Theatre report from a few months ago having put together some reactions of those involved. But today I’m happy to report a huge success for Theatre Lab and their- hopefully first ANNUAL 24 Hour Play Festival. I call it “rehearsed improv” because the plays are written a week in advance and then cast and rehearsed in a 24 hour period before they are put on stage. It makes for some surprising and quite dazzling plays and performances.

A brain child of Theatre Lab’s Artistic Director Ryan Foizey and co-produced by The Player’s Project Theater Company, this concept- though maybe familiar to those who underwent such exercises in college- offers a unique opportunity to the local theatre loving public to see many familiar faces in short plays that are not only new- their brand-spanking new. The talent is assembled a week in advance and then the five playwrights are given a basic genre and setting, the number and gender of actors in their play and- most importantly- a random line that must appear at some point in the new work they’re creating. On Thursday night the playwrights assemble to deliver to the randomly chosen directors so they could study and block the work overnight. Then on Friday, the actors are added to the mix and again randomly chosen to fit into one of the five plays. Then the 24 hours of rehearsal, memorization and polishing begins before the plays are presented on Saturday night. Whew! It’s like having an all-night cast party the night before the play opens! A panel of three judges are in the audience and awards are given after the performances to various actors and playwrights as chosen “best” in their categories by these judges.

theatrelab24Though our host for the evening, Mike Dowdy, announces that mistakes may be made- flubbed lines, missed entrances, etc.- there were no obvious flaws other than a couple of short pauses here and there. In fact, these plays all looked like they had been rehearsed for weeks. The evening opened with Zak Allen-Farmer’s script which he calls “Three Women In A Bedroom Talking Like Men” (Zak won the award for best script). Anyone (including the men in the audience) know these women were really talking like women- not men. The bawdy language and increasingly drunk behavior kept the audience in stitches as these three ladies (the always wonderful Rachel Hanks, the lovely Blaire Hamilton and the delightful Sarah Porter) dissed on their husbands and tried to let the newlywed in on what happens as soon as the honeymoon is over.

Steve Peirick’s unsettling script, “Screaming” involves Marcy Weigert as a distraught housewife who must listen to her husband’s accomplishments at work when he comes home late- again- while she is frazzled by being kept running all day with a screaming newborn. Ranjan Kahn is the consoling husband who tries to make things better but he may be too late. Christina Rios Kelley has directed this one with an ever-increasing sense of dread and horror.

“That Memo” is Deanna Jent’s contribution and her clever script shows why her brilliant script, “Falling” is playing to sell-outs in its West Coast premiere. You don’t see this one coming as, winner of the night for best ensemble, has three actors who really take you by surprise. Tom Lehman has directed Rachel Tibbets and John Sparger as a couple who meet from an on-line dating service and they just happen to run into a friend of his from work, played by Even Kuhn, at a busy restaurant.

Another clever script is served up by Carl Wickman and directed by the night’s winner for direction, Todd Schaefer. Called “Uncomfortable,” Ben Nordstrom is a serial killer who comes on stage bloody and carrying a blood-stained knife and soon is confronted by the spirit of the lady he just killed, the best actress winner for the night, Sarajane Alverson. Hilarity follows this tragedy as the lost souls seem to bond despite what has just happened.

Closing out the night is best actor winner, Nick Kelly playing a rather odd Brit (or is he?) who confronts a stranger (or is he?) played by Carl Overly, Jr. It’s called “Rapport”, written by Spencer Green and directed by Ryan Foizey. This one is very Monty Python-esque with no obvious sense of where it’s going- but you don’t care because you’re laughing too hard.

theatrelablogoWhat a fun night this one was. As a fund-raiser for the relatively new group, Theatre Lab, it’s one of those evenings of theatre that even the critics pay and you don’t mind. There were even raffles during the scene changes between the five plays and a concession stand to raise money as well. It’s definitely for a good cause and you’re never going to see anything like it again. Although put together in 24 hours, it has the spontaneity of improv combined with the polish of professional theatre. It’s fleeting and wonderful and if you weren’t there, it’s your loss- the moment can’t be captured again. Until maybe next year for the Second Annual 24 Hour Play Festival.

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Just an observation- although we saw some great plays of the season around this Halloween including “Evil Dead-The Musical” at Stray Dog and New Line’s premiere of “Night Of The Living Dead- The Musical,” we haven’t seen one of my favorites in a long time, often associated with the season, “Arsenic And Old Lace.” It’s been around a long time but, done well, it’s still one of the funniest plays ever written.

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Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone and try to avoid shopping on that holiday and at least wait until Black Friday. Me? I’ll be waiting around for what looks like “Black Week-End” that week after Thanksgiving with at least six or seven plays opening- probably spilling into the week end after that. Enjoy live theatre when you can this holiday season and I’ll probably see you somewhere in the audience.

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Dysfunction Reigns Supreme In The Black Comedy “Pterodactyls” At St. Louis Actors’ Studio

November 13, 2013
Nathan Bush as Todd and Whit Reichert as Arthur in "Pterodactyls" at STLAS. Photo: John Lamb

Nathan Bush as Todd and Whit Reichert as Arthur in “Pterodactyls” at STLAS. Photo: John Lamb

The Duncan family of Main Line, Philadelphia are the antithesis of the Nelson family. Where Ozzie and Harriet speak volumes about the 1950’s lifestyle, these folks more closely resemble the Addams family. Even the daughters fiancé seems to fit right in as he eagerly accepts to become the household maid- complete with uniform of short black dress covered with a white apron and topped off with the maid’s hat. That the whole family accepts this as behavior as normal as strychnine pie lets you know how this whole thing is bound to end. The play is “Pterodactyls” and St. Louis Actors’ Studio has put together a cast that handles this bizarre plot just as matter-of-fact as if they were in an episode of the Nelson’s.

James Slover as Tom and Penny Kols as Grace in the STLAS production of "Pterodactyls." Photo: John Lamb

James Slover as Tom and Penny Kols as Grace in the STLAS production of “Pterodactyls.” Photo: John Lamb

The matriarch of the Duncan’s is Grace and Penny Kols delivers a spectacular performance as an indifferent, self-centered woman complete with ’80’s bouffant hairstyle and free-wheeling sexual undertones in almost everything she does. She has no trouble in expressing her opinion on everything including which child she prefers between her son and daughter. It’s hilarious and over the top in a way that makes it perfect for this play and this role. As her husband, veteran actor Whit Reichert delivers a droll and on the mark portrayal of a banker who has had it with the daily grind and- either intentionally or unintentionally- has been dismissed from his job and couldn’t be happier. He also isn’t shy about which offspring he prefers- even going so far as continually calling his son by the wrong name (perhaps a nickname he gave him as a child). He also has a few other eccentricities that come out as the play progresses and handles it with the usual “Whit” and charm that has made him a favorite on stage for years.

Nathan Bush is the son, Todd, who is the very essence of moody and, as the play opens, shows that his lecture on the origins of the earth are about as far off as his rather addled demeanor. Of course, he did forget his notes so he’s “winging” it. He eventually discovers some dinosaur bones buried in the front yard and decides to reconstruct them in the living room. Though it turns out to be a “baby tyrannosaurus,” it provides the impetus for comparing this dysfunctional family to the pterodactyls of the title as scavengers only looking out for themselves.

Betsy Bowman as Emma and James Slover as Tom in "Pterodactyls" at St. Louis Actor's Studio. Photo: John Lamb

Betsy Bowman as Emma and James Slover as Tom in “Pterodactyls” at St. Louis Actor’s Studio. Photo: John Lamb

As the daughter, Emma, Betsy Bowman is a delight as an insecure bundle of nerves who has definite problems relating with her family and her boyfriend. We get a taste of her philosophy early on when she claims that “facts run through her like Chinese food.” The play offers an unusual twist at the end that lets her find out that her insecurities are indeed based in truth. James Slover is wonderful as Emma’s fiancé, Tommy, who proves he’s just as nutty as the Duncan clan when he becomes their maid. Although showing a more centric outlook on life, he eventually has no trouble fitting right in with this family- again a plot twist that dumps even more dysfunction on this already out of whack household.

Director Milton Zoth has brought out every nuance of black humor that hatches out of Nicky Silver’s script. Having seen Mr. Silver’s “The Lyons” earlier this year, one has to wonder what kind of family this guy grew up in. With a splendid set designed by Patrick Huber and his equally deft lighting design, “Pterodactyls” jumps off the stage. Teresa Doggett’s costumes are perfect and the Robin Weatherall sound design complete the success.

It’s unusual, it’s funny, it’s depressing but always entertaining. Catch “Pterodactyls”- part of the St. Louis Actors’ Studio season of “Sins Of The Father” through November 24th. Give them a call at 314-458-2978 or visit at stlas.org for tickets or more information.

Two Great Actors Plus One Great Director Equals “Tuesdays With Morrie” At Dramatic License

November 12, 2013
Aaron Orion Baker as Mitch and Bobby Miller as Morrie in "Tuesdays With Morrie" at Dramatic License. Photo: John Lamb

Aaron Orion Baker as Mitch and Bobby Miller as Morrie in “Tuesdays With Morrie” at Dramatic License. Photo: John Lamb

For almost an hour and a half the audience is spellbound by two of St. Louis’ greatest actors bringing the touching story of “Tuesdays With Morrie” to life on the unusual mall theatre stage at Dramatic License Productions. Jeffrey Hatcher’s touching adaptation of Mitch Albom’s book brings tears of laughter, joy and sorrow as we see how a professor can bring a selfish sports journalist to his knees with the power of kindness and generosity.

As I discussed with one of my fellow colleagues, you can use the old adage of a great actor bringing the telephone book to life to Bobby Miller. As she said, “he can make you laugh reading the yellow pages.” We see him as Morrie Schwartz at the end of his life when he is reunited with one of his former students. Although the student swore he would always stay in touch with his beloved professor, the exciting world of sport journalism took over his life and soon his wife and family- as well as his dear teacher- all became second to his skyrocketing career. How this elderly man is able to bring this man back to earth is simply amazing and, in the hands of a great actor like Mr. Miller, it becomes transcendent. He makes you laugh out loud, chortle and just be astounded how he can give this dying man such life. Another remarkable performance in a career so far filled with brilliant characters.

As the former student, Mitch (that’s right, Mr. Albom has written the show about himself) Aaron Orion Baker matches his fellow actor with a touching performance that subtly transforms him from a man with a phone attached to his ear and berating everyone he talks to on it to a man with actual compassion. This professor has managed to make this coast-to-coast gadabout firmly entrenched in his new weekly routine of scheduling his life around his Tuesday visits with this dying man who is teaching him much more in later life than he ever could have taught him in the classroom. We can see the nuanced performance of Mr. Baker take him from the riches of the almighty dollar to the riches of appreciating humanity in general and this man in particular. It’s an astounding portrayal.

Aaron Orion Baker and Bobby Miller in the Dramatic License Production of "Tuesdays With Morrie." Photo: John Lamb

Aaron Orion Baker and Bobby Miller in the Dramatic License Production of “Tuesdays With Morrie.” Photo: John Lamb

Wrapping it all together is another beloved member of the local acting and directing community, John Contini. He manages to squeeze every lighthearted moment between these two men who learn to love each other all over again and then bring an audience to sobbing- and I mean audibly sobbing- at plays’ end. It’s a gift and what a blessing for local theatre patrons to be able to witness these three icons of the business at the pinnacle.

Scott Schoonover’s beautiful set enhances the low key but moving story with just the right, subtle touches provided by lighting designer Max Parrilla. Lisa Hazelhorst’s costumes are also right on the button and an effective sound design by Joseph T. Pini completes the perfect technical aspects to this moving show.

From the poignant moments when Mitch ditches his first love, jazz piano, to take the more lucrative route, to the great opening scene where we see Morrie dancing about the halls of his retirement home, we marvel at the transformation both men make during the course of the play. “Tuesdays With Morrie” is an unforgettable story and you just can’t get these performances out of your head- they are terrific. Dramatic License Productions continues “Tuesdays With Morrie” through November 17th. Give them a call at 636-220-7012 or visit dramaticlicenseproductions.org for tickets or more information.

Unusual Event Sparks Hope And Tears As Mustard Seed Theatre Presents “All Is Calm”

November 10, 2013
The gentlemen of "All Is Calm" at Mustard Seed Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

The gentlemen of “All Is Calm” at Mustard Seed Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

It happened early in the Great War- 1914- at Christmastime and the dramatization of this amazing event is simply spectacular. The British troops started singing Christmas carols to each other across the trenches on Christmas Eve and soon they heard the German soldiers across no man’s land also taking to song. Early on Christmas day the German soldiers ventured out and across the wasteland  with hands outstretched to wish the enemy a Merry Christmas. The result was a one day truce that involved singing, camaraderie and even an impromptu soccer game.

Now Mustard Seed Theatre presents the a cappella musical, “All Is Calm,” which is playwright Peter Rothstein’s take on this tender moment when enemies celebrated life instead of death, reaching a hand out to greet a fellow man instead of using that hand to pull a trigger that would kill him and drowning out the quiet with song instead of gunfire. Ten strong male voices bring a variety of music from the period to life blending voices in harmony interspersed with real life stories and commentary to show the horrors of war along with the incredible story of how that war ended for just one day to celebrate a common denominator for them all- remembering the true meaning of Christmas.

Shawn Bowers featured in Mustard Seed's "All Is Calm." Photo: John Lamb

Shawn Bowers featured in Mustard Seed’s “All Is Calm.” Photo: John Lamb

It’s amazing how director Deanna Jent found ten beautifully compatible voices to bring songs like “It’s A Long Way To Tipperary,” “Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming” and traditional holiday songs to joyous life with only the occasional pitch pipe to keep them on mark. It’s almost like the Whiffenpoofs went to war and then a few Germans joined the Yale elite. The ten men come marching into the trench-like stage area from both wings to the Scottish folk song, “Will Ye Go To Flanders?” and then various men take on the persona of German and French soldiers throughout the short one-hour show. With mostly the music to tell their stories, it’s a moving piece that is particularly poignant on this Veteran’s Day holiday.

As a vet, I admit to shedding a tear or two- first when the soldiers all gathered around the German’s make-shift Christmas tree to sing “Silent Night” and again during the heartfelt rendition (in French) of “O Holy Night” delivered with the lilting voice of Antonio Rodriguez. The entire male cast is outstanding. Besides the powerful performance of Mr. Rodriguez, Charlie Barron and Christopher Hickey are brilliant as are Tim Schall, J Samuel Davis and Jeffrey Wright. Shawn Bowers, Gary Glasgow, Jason Meyers and Luke Steingruby also deliver powerful performances in a variety of roles.

The British soldiers in a light moment from "All Is Calm" at Mustard Seed Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

The British soldiers in a light moment from “All Is Calm” at Mustard Seed Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Director Deanna Jent does a masterful job of moving the men around the brilliant barbed wire and convincing “no man’s land” set created by Kyra Bishop. Moving in and out of British and German persona and creating magnificent stage pictures along the way, this is a touching tribute to that unique event. Michael Sullivan’s lights also enhance the proceedings including the unique cyclorama across the back as does the musical direction by Joe Schoen of the Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach musical arrangements. Also delightful are the soldier’s realistic uniforms designed by Jane Sullivan. A big heap of praise to dialect coach Richard Lewis who had the gentlemen spot on with their accents throughout as they switched from British to German to Scottish to French and back again with powerful conviction.

This is as wonderful as theatre gets. A moving tribute to military personnel everywhere, “All Is Calm” shows a spirit of both the men in uniform as well as the men in this cast. How fulfilling it must be to know you’re creating a show that has the power to bring hope, laughter, song and tears to an audience who, on opening night (and I’m sure for the whole run), gave them a well-earned standing ovation. I remember a film from many years ago called “Midnight Clear” that told basically the same story but set in the Second World War. Both that film and this musical showed what “peace on earth” music can bring but also the harsh reality we must return to after this brief and hopeful moment in time.

“All Is Calm” is inspiring and one you don’t want to miss. As I said, it’s only an hour or so long but you’ll probably get more from this short moment in the theatre than you’ve had in some time. It plays through November 24th and you can get tickets or more information by contacting Mustard Seed Theatre at 314-719-8060 or at mustardseedtheatre.com.

“The Hothouse” Offers Madcap Satire At Its Best At West End Players Guild

November 3, 2013
Elizabeth Graverman as Miss Cutts, delivers relief to Robert Ashton as Roote in WEPG's production of "The Hothouse." Photo: John Lamb

Elizabeth Graverman as Miss Cutts, delivers relief to Robert Ashton as Roote in WEPG’s production of “The Hothouse.” Photo: John Lamb

Written by Harold Pinter in the 50’s and then thrown into a drawer where it stood for twenty years (or so say the rumors), “The Hothouse” is a raucous satire with underlying shades of truth that shows what happens when those in charge are left unchecked. “The Hothouse” is a mental institution (though it’s called everything from a convalescent home to a rest home by those running the facility) and it is, as the publicity for West End Players Guild suggests, a cross between Monty Python and Franz Kafka.

Robert Ashton rules the roost as Roote- a classic example of the Peter Principle as he has reached the pinnacle as manager of the home and has decided it’s best for him and the patients if he no longer checks up on them or even sees them. His bumbling management technique allows for some of the other inmates-running-the-asylum types to wander about doing what they please. As we open, he is having a nonsensical conversation with his right hand man, Gibbs, played with perfect British stoicism by Zach Wachter.  He informs him of, not only a death in the facility, but that one of the female patients has had a baby.

Roger Erb is delightful as a haughty and overbearing worker, Lush, who offers an almost blasé attitude to anything he does or discusses. Pete Winfrey is the reticent Lamb who is intimidated by the only female worker in the place and then succumbs to an unexpected experiment by two of the other workers. He also plays a significant role in the final outcome. Elizabeth Graverman is properly sexy as the horny Miss Cutts who is semi-committed to Roote but appears to be trolling the waters for everyone else who crosses her path.

Zach Wachter as Gibbs tries to play solitaire as Roger Erb as Lush distracts him in "The Hothouse" at WEPG. Photo: John Lamb

Zach Wachter as Gibbs tries to play solitaire as Roger Erb as Lush distracts him in “The Hothouse” at WEPG. Photo: John Lamb

In two smaller roles, Nick Kelly and Matt Hanify provide proper impetus to keep this wildly entertaining story moving along. It’s hard to describe the action as it moves along at a halting pace, moving from one silly conversation to the next until it all becomes startling clear at play’s end. Much like many government institutions today, it shows the danger of allowing any entity in that government the power to “run itself.” Checks and balances don’t exist so patients beware- you won’t know what hit you.

Directer Suki Peters has corralled this nonsense beautifully- allowing it to run off in all directions but keeping focus on the satire that Pinter has so brilliantly brought to the script. Aided by the multi-level set design by Brian Peters and the equally effective lights of Nathan Schroeder, “The Hothouse” runs from one ridiculous situation to the next- each building on each other until the final reveal. Joshua Cook’s sound design adds to the mayhem and the costumes of Beth Ashby are also on the mark.

We’ve had a couple looks at Harold Pinter this year and still another one lies ahead of us. But “The Hothouse” is a sheer delight of absurdity that haunts with the underlying theme of truth that is almost scarier than the many Halloween shows we’ve seen this season. Catch the West End Players Guild production of “The Hothouse” now through November 10th. Contact them at 314-367-0025 for tickets or more information.

Two Brilliant Actors Collide As Freud and C.S. Lewis In “Freud’s Last Session” At The Rep Studio

November 2, 2013
Barry Mulholland as Dr. Freud and Jim Butz as C. S. Lewis in the Rep Studio production of "Freud's Last Session." Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Barry Mulholland as Dr. Freud and Jim Butz as C. S. Lewis in the Rep Studio production of “Freud’s Last Session.” Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

We’ve all heard people say about great actors, “I’d listen to him read the phone book.” Well, it wasn’t exactly the phone book, but two superb actors turn the somewhat repetitive script for “Freud’s Last Session” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Studio into great theatre. Aided by wonderful technical aspects and outstanding direction, we learn many things we didn’t know about each man but they are fighting a losing battle by trying to defend their stands on religion and science.

This perceived meeting between the two great thinkers of the time, Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis never really happened but playwright Mark St. Germain created a drama around each men’s words and concepts to create a discussion not unlike the one between Shakespeare and Shaw in “Frogs.” Both men grew up in religious households and attended services and were drilled with the often confining credos of their respective religions. Where Freud drifted and became cynical- denying the existence of a God, C. S. Lewis drifted but soon embraced Christianity, even though he struggled with it his entire life. As he states early on in the play, “the greatest problem with Christianity is the Christians.” Their ideologies collide on stage but really offer nothing new from the lives we’re already familiar with. The real tension in the play is provided by the two fine actors and Freud’s descent into his affliction of cancer of the mouth. This offers some almost unbearable tension at times and also tends to give the “points” in the argument to the compassion and God-fearing demeanor of Lewis.

Barry Mulholland as Freud contemplates the latest news about the war in the Rep's "Freud's Last Session." Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Barry Mulholland as Freud contemplates the latest news about the war in the Rep’s “Freud’s Last Session.” Photo courtesy of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Barry Mulholland is striking as Doctor Freud. His stature and occasional moments of pure rage solidify his character and make him truly believable. Jim Butz is equally effective as the quiet and contemplative C. S. Lewis as he, as well, takes on the persona of the novelist and defends his stand on religion over science to explain the world. These two actors hold the audience in thrall throughout the almost hour and a half one act. It’s a startling performance of give and take by both men as they attempt to defend their stands when we know, in the end, both will cling to their chosen path and not succumb to the arguments of the other. Watching them work together while also showing mutual respect for each other is the stuff of powerful theatre.

Director Michael Evan Haney returns to the Rep and turns an often uninspired script into a work of art. From the radio broadcasts of imminent danger from Hitler (the play is set in 1939 on the eve of WWII) to the clashes of wills, he makes the play move at a good pace and brings out the best including the occasional jolt of humor. The ending with Freud finally listening to the BBC broadcast of music after the latest news bulletin is a poignant moment.

Set designers Peter and Margery Spack provide a beautiful and frightening picture with the idyllic study of Freud leading out to a beautiful garden but edged with burnt out floorboards and war-like remembrances bordering the otherwise peaceful setting. The only thing that really bothered me a little was the curly phone cord- at that time I believe the phone would have sported a cloth-wrapped cord. Elizabeth Eisloeffel’s costumes are perfectly period while James Sale’s lights and the sound design of Benjamin Marcum add to the magic of the production.

“Freud’s Last Session” is powerful theatre and has already been extended through November 24th. To see two fine actors tackle these historical icons is something very special. Call the Rep box office at 314-968-4925 to see this Studio Theatre production of “Freud’s Last Stand.”

Scary Plays Continue For The Season As SATE Presents “The Woman In Black”

November 1, 2013
B. Weller as Mr. Kipps and Jared Sanz-Agero as the Actor in SATE's production of "The Woman In Black." Photo: Joey Rumpell

B. Weller as Mr. Kipps and Jared Sanz-Agero as the Actor in SATE’s production of “The Woman In Black.” Photo: Joey Rumpell

This one falls into the psychological/scary category as Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble continues their “Season Of The Monster” with one of the scariest Halloween scripts, “The Woman In Black.” Stephen Mallatratt’s version scares with sight, sound and imagination as a solicitor in Victorian London is charged with going through a recently deceased matron’s papers in the house that everyone in town avoids. He has had an experience previously with the house and tenant and plans to present his diaries to family and friends so there is a record of his bizarre experience. He hires an actor to help him with his presentation and the actor soon becomes so fascinated with the story he decides to help the man by going through the whole “script” playing the gentleman while he plays all of the other characters in the story.

Strange events begin to occur as they rehearse and, by play’s end, neither man is left unscathed. But that’s all what you’ll experience as this play unfolds with apprehension. You’re just waiting for the next unusual event or sighting to scare you as the Woman in Black makes several mysterious appearances- but is she really there or not? B. Weller is superb as the solicitor who has trouble in the beginning dealing with his monotone presentation- proving again that it takes a wonderful actor to become a bad actor. Jared Sanz-Agero is perfect as the demanding actor who suddenly gets swept into the captivating story. Rounding out the cast is Shelby Partridge as the mysterious Woman in Black- Jennet Humfrye. She is an ominous specter who is even more frightening as she appears all over the small space- coming through the audience, suddenly appearing on a darkened stage and eventually going into a rage before again mysteriously disappearing.

B. Weller at a stool-turned-writing desk in "The Woman In Black" at SATE. Photo: Joey Rumpell

B. Weller at a stool-turned-writing desk in “The Woman In Black” at SATE. Photo: Joey Rumpell

Director Rachel Tibbetts builds the suspense beautifully. Although the show seemingly moves slowly at the start, you are so eagerly expecting the unexpected that the exposition becomes highly charged anticipating the moves that the Woman in Black has in store. A highly effective set and lighting design has been rendered by Bess Moynihan. The spooky draping of the furniture in the old mansion casts an eerie spell and things like an old trunk, stool and chairs are revealed and become props as they are as well as substituting for items such as a horse and carriage. The lighting becomes a moody element as well. Elizabeth Henning’s costumes are also quite good reflecting the time period and giving us enough of a glimpse of the face of the woman that makes us shrink in horror. In addition, Ellie Schwetye’s sound design is right on the mark to entertain as well as frighten.

A special nod to Pamela Reckamp as the dialect coach. Both gentlemen sported and maintained a very convincing British accent throughout. There are several stage versions and movie versions of this “ghost” story around but this one is particularly effective as the suspense builds psychologically without a bloody massacre or even and onstage killing. But it will at times frighten you out of your wits.

Jared Sanz-Agero throwing some light on the problem in SATE's "The Woman In Black." Photo: Joey Rumpell

Jared Sanz-Agero throwing some light on the problem in SATE’s “The Woman In Black.” Photo: Joey Rumpell

Congrats to the folks at Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble for joining a very populous year for on stage horror around town and doing it so convincingly. SATE presents “The Woman In Black” through November 9th. Give them a call at 314-827-5760 for tickets or more information on this show and the rest of their season.