THE WOMAN IN BLACK: A GHOST PLAY is a cleverly constructed stage production by Stephen Mallatratt based on a novel by Susan Hill. It is a story within a story with Arthur Kipps (Dan Kern) seeking the assistance of an actor (Jered McLenigan) to tell his terrifying and sorrowful tale he’s compiled into a five hour manuscript. The actor encourages Kipps to tell the story through acting; the actor playing the role of Kipps and Kipps playing the roles of the people he encountered during his experiences. As a young solicitor, Kipps is sent to the home of the late Alice Drablow to handle her estate. He learns that her home, the Eel Marsh house, becomes isolated from the village at high tide and is feared by the townspeople who believe it harbors a vengeful spirit. This spirit—the woman in black—instills fear in the town as she stalks young children. Dismissing the warnings, he begins his work, and soon learns he is in the sights of a true malevolent spirit and in a twist, the actor learns the woman in black continues to haunt beyond their rehearsal.
Everything is right with this show. Skillfully directed by James J. Christy, the theater comes to life, immersing the audience in the story. Kern and McLenigan are believable in each role as they seamlessly transition between multiple environments and characters with subtle (spot-on) changes in dialect and wardrobe. The imagery the actors create—coupled with excellent sound, lighting, and haze effects—transport the audience to those harrowing times at the Eel Marsh house. The actors move around the stage and into the aisles as scenes unfold throughout the theater, further enveloping the audience into their world and providing the perfect backdrop for unexpected visions of the fateful (and downright creepy) WOMAN IN BLACK. October 29–November 24, 2013, act2.org.