MILL HALL - "The Woman In Black" is a really long ghost story. Not long as in length but the stage drama, which opened in London's West End in 1989 and currently is in its 25th year, is second only to "The Mousetrap" as England's longest-running non-musical.
Millbrook Playhouse spins its version of "The Lady in Black" with 7:30 p.m. performances tonight through Sunday in the downstairs Cabaret.
Many years ago, solicitor Arthur Kipps, when sent to a remote village to settle the estate of a reclusive widow, came face-to-face with a spectre.
Millbrook Playhouse spins its version of “The Lady in Black” with 7:30 p.m. performances tonight through Sunday in the downstairs Cabaret.
The town folk, however, were reluctant either to admit the existence of "The Woman In Black" or the terrible secret prompting her vengeful haunting.
Harboring his secret, Kipps suffered alone until he enlists the help of a young actor to assist him to tell his dark tale. After the actor berates Kipps for his hesitant delivery of his manuscript, they decide to perform the story with the Actor playing a young Kipps, with Kipps playing all the characters he met, and narrating his terrifying experience.
Set in an old Victorian theater, the two-act play starts slowly, but the opening night audience quickly tunes into the play-within-a-play, as the tortured solicitor hopes to exorcise the fear that has gripped his soul for many years.
There is only a cast of two, the solicitor and the Actor, plus fleeting glimpses - but no dialogue - from "The Woman In Black."
Stellar acting both from Frank Franconeri (who was hilarious in the Cabaret's "Come Blow Your Horn") as Arthur Kipps, and Chris Corporandy as the skeptical Actor. Franconeri seamlessly slides from one character into another, donning an apron, then chewing on a cigar, and using a whip for the trap-and-pony cart.
Playing Kipps, Corporandy crisply and clearly enunciates, helping to raise the tension. Both actors, but especially Corporandy, work up a sweat as the tension builds. Kipps, staying in the crumbling estate, discovers a pack of the widow's letters, eventually learning why "The Woman In Black" seeks revenge.
Her spectral appearances are a harbinger of doom, and are always followed by the death of some innocent soul, as the solicitor horribly learns.
Although not looking like a "wasted young woman," Nancy Markloff, listed in the playhouse's program as a carpenter, appears as "The Lady in Black," often in dim lighting or behind a scrim.
The Cabaret, with its close-in seating and low ceiling, is a good intimate setting as Director Thomas Cole makes good use of a few props - mainly wooden table and chairs, as well as theater aisles.
Part of the narration is recorded. There are good sound effects, especially the creaking rocker, which add to the creepiness, with the Cabaret's limited lighting capacity also helping spooky atmosphere.
Not everyone will be comfortable with the play's format. With minimal scenery and props, Millbrook's "The Lady In Black" still succeeds with its creepy storytelling and top rate acting.
This production slowly ratchets up the tension and, although there wasn't as many scary moments as anticipated, is engrossing entertainment.
Semi-Spoiler Alert: Check out the play's logo in the program for a telling clue as to what the ghost is seeking.
For box office info, call 748-8083; or visit www.millbrookplayhouse.org.