Boise Weekly 9/29/2010
We are proposing that in addition to the traditional dramatic masks of comedy and tragedy, a new mask of surprise be added so we can wear it each fall when we announce that Idaho Shakespeare Festival has, once again, been voted among the Best of Boise. By this point, no one should be surprised that the state’s preeminent theater company wins this category year after year: The productions are excellent, the cast and crew are some of the best in the business, and you just can’t beat that gorgeous amphitheater. Of course, the fact that most of us indulge in a few glasses of wine each time we see an ISF production only enhances those warm, fuzzy feelings. Read more
By Deanna Darr, Boise Weekly, Published 9/7/2010
Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s latest production leaves as lingering a presence as its title character. The Woman in Black is at once simple and intriguing, and it’s the perfect sort of tale to accompany a cool fall night.
Pulling off an effective ghost story with a two-man cast in an outdoor theater is a challenging task, but like a frightful tale told around a campfire, ISF manages to draw the audience in and hold them captivated. It’s probably the reason the play has been a mega-hit in London for the better part of two decades although, surprisingly, it’s little known on this side of the pond.
The story is a play within a play, as a man tormented by the supernatural events of his past attempts to purge himself of their dark memory by putting them to paper and then sharing the tale with his friends and family with the coaching of a professional actor.
Mr. Kipps (Dudley Swetland) is reluctant from the start, but his is drawn out by the actor (Chad Hoeppner), who eventually plays the role of a young Kipps, while Kipps himself takes on the roles of associated characters in his story.
As a young lawyer, Kipps is called to a remote house to settle the estate of an eccentric widow. While there, he discovers a dark secret and is pulled into it with torturous results.
As the plot is established under the bright blue sky and with a reluctant narrator, it’s hard to imagine the story becoming a gripping thriller. But the production is timed perfectly so that as the tension builds and the tale begins to flow, the skies darken to complete the atmosphere.
Both actors turn in strong performances, holding the audience in rapt attention, although the use of microphones coupled with the use of the aisles for entrances and exits makes it a bit disorienting to find the actors on occasion.
Still, the production effectively weaves the web of the story, relying on the basic, but time-honored tools of the theater to do so. The set is an ode to the magic of the theater, designed to emulate an old playhouse, where the energy of past productions oozes from the walls and magic lurks within the cacophony of well-worn props.
A minimal crew takes full advantage of lighting and sound to create atmosphere–not to mention a heavy dose of fishing line to set objects (and even the occasional tree) into motion seemingly on their own. There is a decidedly Dickensian feel to the production, which completes the dressing for a good ghost story.
The simple, yet effective approach to the entire production is a perfect example of how theater can lead an audience so completely into an imaginary world.
Besides, it’s hard to deny the appeal of a good, old-fashioned ghost story. Read at Boise Weekly
By Dana Oland- Cast and design team make this ghost story satisfying if not frightening
Copyright 2010 Idaho Statesman. Published 9/6/2010
One of the most difficult things to do in a theater is to truly scare audiences, especially in the 21st century when people are inured to most things that slash, scream, or go bump in the night.
Yet that is the goal of “The Woman in Black,” Stephen Malatratt’s theatrical adaptation of Susan Hill’s ghost story. The play has enjoyed a chilling 22-year run at London’s Fortune Theatre, a jewel box Victorian theater where it is much easier to control the theatrical environment.
In the great outdoors of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival amphitheater, making this play work is a different kind of challenge. Fortunately, with director Drew Barr at the helm, this stellar design team and seasoned cast make the show – if not actually scary – at least suspenseful and ultimately satisfying.
The production starts off slow, but that’s because the play is almost entirely exposition, something most playwrights avoid. After all, theater is a medium of show, not tell. However, telling is something that’s intrinsic to a ghost story, which is best heard round the campfire.
To translate that to theater, Malatratt’s adaptation uses stagecraft as storytelling. The play tells a ghost story; but it is really about theater.
That’s clear from the moment you set eyes on Russell Metheny’s excellent set. It is the outline of a theater with borders, lights, scaffolds and a fabric scrim that divides the stage and becomes see through when lit. There are bits of old sets, props and boxes stashed around that get pulled out to build the world of the play. Behind the scrim is the mysterious Eel Marsh House.
The cast and crew employ a host of theatrical devices, including mime, sound effects, lighting, props, smoke, mirrors and other visual tricks, and most important, imagination. Read more