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Brown County Playhouse: Woman in Black

Menacing thunder from Andrew Hopson’s sound design along with Marie Shakespeare’s lightning are very much a part of the drama in "The Woman in Black’ at the Brown County Playhouse. The show begins innocently enough with actor Jack O’Hara on a mostly bare stage simply reading an account of a family story telling at a Christmas celebration, but things move to the dark complexly dramatic well before the play is over. O’Hara’s reading is purposefully dull and he’s sharply corrected by a director, Dylan Marks, whom he’s hired to help him prepare a more dramatic presentation.

In a neat reversal Dylan Marks is drawn into the playing out of O’Hara’s character’s story with O’Hara in charge. Through the show, O’Hara makes minor costume and accent changes to play more than half a dozen characters in the tale. It’s a strange story, very much in the Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft mode as the confidently naïve director becomes more and more enmeshed. in a story with a dark house in the midst of a salt marsh, things that go bump, screams, dramatic visions of tragedy, an antique child’s playroom behind a keyless locked door and a mysterious dark lady that wanders in and out.

Actor Jack O’Hara was very successful and always interesting in taking on his many roles even if from time to time just who he was, wasn’t quite clear. IU Faculty member Bruce Burgun who was to play the director had to have his appendix removed on the past Thursday. Filling in very credibly was the show’s Assistant Stage Manager Dylan Marks.

"The Woman in Black" is quite thrilling with the drama heightened by Marie Shakespeare’s lighting. Andrew Hopson’s sound design was integral with everything from gentle street sounds to fearsome screams and thunder. Most of it was very successful, though in a couple of scenes the background should have been established and then faded before it became irritatingly distracting. The play was adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the book by Susan Hill. Hill credited Mallatratt with a "genius in seeing what could be done with a book that otherwise would have sunk quietly out of sight…"

"The Woman in Black" continues at the Brown County Playhouse with Friday and Saturday evening performances and Sunday matinees through October 21st.

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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