by Clark Groome
Since 1989 Stephen Mallatratt’s stage adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel, “The Woman in Black,” has been playing in London’s West End, making it the second longest-running non-musical in London history behind only Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.”
Like “The Mousetrap,” “The Woman in Black” is mostly about entertaining and diverting its audiences. It’s not designed for those who are looking for ground-breaking or brilliantly written drama. To that end, if the evidence of the fine production it is receiving through Nov. 24 at Ambler’s Act II Playhouse and its run in London are to be believed, it’s doing very well.
Billed as a ghost story, it is really more than that. A London solicitor (we know them in the colonies as lawyers) goes off to a client’s funeral in a remote coastal town in England. He must not only attend the funeral but clean out the woman’s isolated house, which she has occupied alone (or maybe not) for more than a half-century.
Is the place haunted or not? I’ll let you decide. But that solicitor’s story is told in a presentation that he works out with an acting coach so that he can rid himself of the horrible memories he has of his time on that assignment.
There are twists and turns, some of which are surprising and others predictable. The entire affair, which runs about two hours, is somewhat hard to follow early on. It’s unclear exactly what the situation is. That clarifies as the second act unfolds.
The Act II production, expertly mounted by director James J. Christy, is terrific. Actors Jered McLenigan and Dan Kern play all the parts in “Black.” They are both very impressive, and their various characters are well delineated by Frankie Fehr’s costumes and by the differing accents they have learned under the able dialect coaching of Chestnut Hill resident Hazel Bowers.
In addition to the acting, the play’s physical production is critical to its impact. Daniel Boylen’s set and James Leitner’s eerie lighting are first-rate. Even better was Christopher Colucci’s split-second sound design, which plays a huge part in the proceedings.
“The Woman in Black” isn’t a great play. It is, however, a lot of fun, surprisingly entertaining and even, on occasion, scary.
For tickets call 215-654-0200 or visit www.act2.org.
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