The emotion loosely described as “scared” comes in two forms. There is the “scared” that is the sudden and surprising fright one gets from being startled by a quick movement or action, and then there is the slow-boil sort of scared that comes from a barrage of creepy sounds or movements or brief glimpses of something odd out of the corner of one’s eye.
Modern slasher movies take on the first definition with splashes of blood and screams, while Lakewood Playhouse’s production of “Woman in Black” takes on the latter definition. This classic takes audiences into the eerie world of vengeful ghosts, empty mansions and isolated estates with few scene changes or much of a wardrobe shuffle.
The play is told as a play-within-a-play as Arthur Kipps (played by Nathan Rice) hires an actor (Dylan Twiner) to coach him into the tricks of the thespian trade in an empty theater to better tell his tale of horror. And it is a tale to tell, indeed.
“Woman in Black,” the second-longest running show in London’s West End, is a tale of overwhelming sadness, a desperate adoption of an illegitimate child, a tragic death and an elderly recluse who slowly grew insane that is capped with a vengeful spirit who never stops taunting her target with sorrow and fright coming from the shadows and chills in the dark of night.
What topped this show as just another “ghost drama” is the stellar acting by Rice and Twiner, who take on the roles of the full cast of characters within the tale, each with a nuanced accent shift and a slight costume change. With an overcoat and a Hackney accent, Rice shifts from an upper-crust Scotsman barrister to a coach driver, while Twiner takes the role of Kipps himself.
This show features the Lakewood Playhouse debut of Seattle director Beau Prichard, who orchestrated the work to neither overplay nor under act each line. The play simply builds slowly and methodically to its final twist. There are no shocking scenes or blood-curdling shrieks in the night. It is not that sort of show. It is all about being creepy, slowly and ploddingly like a walk through the peat-covered moors of Northern England.
“Woman in Black” runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays through March 17 at the Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd. Tickets are e$18 to $24 and available at Lakewoodplayhouse.org or by calling (253) 588-0042.