A Verbose Ghost Story in Westminster
By Tom Titus
Spooks and shrieks and things that go bump in the night – all are present and accounted for at the Westminster Community Playhouse where “The Uninvited” currently is casting its spell through the Halloween season.
Playwright Tim Kelly adapted this 1940s chiller from Dorothy Macardle’s novel (and the subsequent Ray Milland movie) and has retained the vintage fright factor, sandwiched in between reams of expository dialogue. The result is a show that can become a tad tedious, but delivers in terms of shock value.
Director Brandon Ferruccio has mounted a production rich in atmospheric flavor (set in a Forties English manor on the edge of a cliff) and teeming with literary-style verbiage. A few of his cast members are quite skilled in the handling of this old-timey melodramatic style.
The “straight” roles of a brother and sister purchasing this ancient edifice are nicely handled by Mike Martin and Elizabeth M. Desloge. Martin projects his industrious playwright with the winning human qualities of impatience and frustration, while Desloge offers some skillfully natural interpretation of her basically bland character.
The central figure in this ghostly drama is Stella, a troubled young woman whose family has owned the tragedy-haunted abode and who now is eager to dispense with it. Meredith Culp shines in this role, both in her initial ebullience and her reaction to the terror the house imparts.
Bill Carson possesses the bull-like gruffness for his part as the girl’s stubborn grandfather, if not the theatrical timing which is noticeably absent. Amy Lauren Gettys is a jewel as the devoutly religious – and fervently opinionated — maid.
The playwright has introduced some fringe figures, who contribute little save for interesting characterizations. These include Jessica Haro as a spooky psychic, Genevieve Grady-Grot as a noted artist and Toni Beckman as a sympathetic physician.
Candy Beck is a commanding presence for her lone appearance as a stern one-time governess, while Beth Titus (yes, my ex, but that chapter closed over three decades ago) provides some needed comic relief as a chatty neighbor lady.
And, yes, the ghost does appear in the person of Rachel Key, whose silent, black-garbed presence is felt at various times during the show. She’s blended into the background by Bob Nydegger’s clever lighting designs.
“The Uninvited” is noteworthy more for its spooky special effects than for its creative storytelling. Its flavor is that of a midnight movie, which fits nicely into this Halloween season at the Westminster Community Playhouse, 7272 Maple St., Westminster, where it plays weekends through Nov. 1. Reservations (714) 893-8626.
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