Seem to be on an oddly fixed schedule these days…Wednesday nite, class. Thursday nite, play. Not that that’s a BAD schedule, oh no. And yesterday was a great class, so I was hoping that would hold out for tonite’s play as well. One I’d been muchly looking forward to, THE TURN OF THE SCREW, a Jeffrey Hatcher play based on the classic Henry James novella. Now, being a relatively unlearned clod, I have not read said novel. But I understood in advance it was a bit of a ghost story. AND it was being performed in grand old Laurier House, a heritage building with stories of actual hauntings surrounding it. Throw in the time of year, and who else thinks we have a recipe for good chills? I even got a few before the show started…some joker actually showed up in a Denis Armstrong costume. Terrifying! I can still see those cold, dead eyes…
Brr. Moving on…the show was directed by fringe ninja and Gruppo Rubato maestro Patrick Gauthier, from whom I have seen two previous shows, and they both rocked (that’d be AIRPORT SECURITY and SOMEONE FOR EVERYONE, by the by). Now, since this was a Victorian-era tale, I couldn’t reasonably expect Gauthier’s two-for-two track record of getting one of his leading ladies into her underwear during the show to continue this time around, but I was still willing to give it a watch. As ever, I am willing to suffer for theatre.
But there’s little suffering to be found here, especially with two thumpingly adorable leads such as Kate Smith and Kris Joseph commanding the stage (or, as the case is here, the tiny antique room/staircase). Kate plays our heroine, the plucky governess who lands a slightly tweaked dream job for a handsome stranger (Kris Joseph), as governess to his niece Flora and nephew Miles(Kris Joseph) at the mysterious, isolated Bly House. Aided only by the loyal Mrs. Grose (Kris Joseph), the governess contends with all manners of shades, spirits, spooky noises (Kris Joseph) in her stalwart efforts to do her duty, and allow her remarkability to be remarked upon by others. The space lends itself perfectly to the story, the occasional musical accompaniment (Kris Joseph, AGAIN) works like gangbusters, costumes are lovely…and I swear, I kept seeing weird shadows from nowhere all through the show. I admit, it kinda spooked me…although to be fair, that might just have been because Armstrong was in the row behind me.
As you may have gleaned, Kris Joseph has a fair few onstage duties in this show, and happily, he’s a supahstar in every one. On top of everything just mentioned (and yes, he really DOES do the music and sound effects), I believe he’s the narrator as well. I love an overachiever…except, of course, Joseph manages to achieve all that he goes for here. And Kate Smith, who is perfectly goddamned radiant up there as the enigmatic lead in what turns out to be a VERY ambiguous work, is just marvelous at every twisted turn. I’m often and repeatedly amazed at the kind of talent floating around this town. Hell, this is the fifth piece I’ve seen Smith in, and she’s still knocking me out. Keep it coming.
It’s an unmissable show, with a fantastic cast, by a great director, in an incredible venue. And the room only seats thirty, so don’t be shy about ordering those tickets, folks! Hell, I might try and see it again myself. Good, good times. And, for the record..? There’s nothing WRONG with being aversion, some of my best friends are…oh, never mind. Just see the show, dig? Love, peace and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)