The darkness that frequently envelopes the Church Street Theatre during The Woman in Black is, or at least seems, total. It’s not the 75 percent grayscale dark you usually get in a theatrical blackout. It’s ink. You can’t help but search it, waiting for those splotchy pixels of the void to resolve themselves into something familiar or at least identifiable. Your eyes exhaust themselves, flicking around, looking into nothing for nothing. The playmakers will show you something in their own good time, and you’ll fall for it, too. Terror breeds credulity.
[The Woman in Black] only wants to scare you out of your breeches, to make you see dead people, to make you be afraid, be very afraid. In this honorable mission, Keegan Theatre’s expertly designed and performed production is an unequivocal success.”
The cast that directors Mark A. Rhea and Colin Smith (who also designed the creaky, atmospheric split-level set) have assembled is inspired, too. Matthew Keenan plays the actor and Young Kipps; in the roles of Old Kipps and the various townspeople is Robert Leembruggen. Keenan pivots easily among his dual roles. As the actor… he seems like a patient if disbelieving teacher; as Young Kipps, his pendulum swing from earnest confidence to humble terror is persuasive. Leembruggen’s stocky body is somehow expressive even when he’s just standing there, his broad, ruddy face looking sorrowful and haunted. Because truly superb acting doesn’t look like acting, it’s difficult to describe. But here it is.
Also deserving of special mention is sound designer Tony Angelini…Angelini triggers the projector in your mind. It helps, of course, that the story he’s helping to tell calls for so many basic, easily recognized cues: Bustling city streets, singing birds, a steam train, horses’ hooves, the terrified screams of drowning children. The usual.