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

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.

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