Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Simple Machine Theatre Presents "The Turn of the Screw"

Stephen Libby and Anna Waldron
The Turn of the Screw
at the Gibson House Museum.
Photo by Kyler Taustin.

Make note of the name of a new theatre troupe in town: Simple Machine Theatre.  "The Turn of the Screw," their current production, is only their second undertaking, but they have already established themselves as willing to tell stories that are unusual and to present them in unusual settings.

Here is how the company's website describes the mission:

"Simple Machine makes theatre for artists and audiences. Simple machines are the essential building blocks of every complex mechanical device that moves and changes the world around us. Character, language, and action are the essential elements at the heart of all theatre. By focusing on these fundamentals, Simple Machine makes theatre that is engaging, accessible, and affordable."

The current production is a bold and chilling adaption of Henry James' classic story.  Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and directed by M. Bevin O'Gara, the play is set in two non-traditional theatre venues: The Gibson House Museum in the Back Bay and Taylor House B & B in Jamaica Plain.

The intimate settings make the ghostly content of the play all the more mysterious and eerie.  I saw the play in its Gibson House Museum setting.  The play begins with the audience and the two actors in the basement of the 19th Century mansion, and then moves up to the main foyer, with much of the action  taking place upon the grand staircase and nearby spaces.

The combination of the uniqueness of the setting, the richness of the tale, and the believability of the actors made it a compelling evening of theatre.  Anna Waldron is the Governess, hired to care for two orphaned siblings at a remote estate far from London.  Stephen Libby plays all the other roles - the orphaned boy, the housekeeper, the uncle of the children.  Both actors employ accents that feel authentic  -  almost Yorkshire in their richness. They both use their voices and facial expressions to great effect in telling the tale.

With the aid of some simple lighting effects,by Ian King, the staircase and environs stand in for the mansion, the grounds, the pond.  The sumptuous setting, the period costumes by Emily Woods Hogue and the atmospherics draw the audience into the action and into the historical period.

The play will run in the two locations through November 23.  Because the performance spaces are small, there is a limited number of tickets for each performance and those tickets are selling fast.  I encourage you to check out the website link below and order your tickets now for the location most convenient for you.




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