Spine-tingling chiller hits Civic’s stage


If you enjoy ghost stories – not blood-and-gore slasher tales but creepy, elegant, unexplainable GHOST stories – you must see the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s production of “The Woman in Black.”

I loved this show, and I’m not just saying that because Current is Civic’s official media sponsor this season. I left the theatre thinking, “Wow!”

Part of my “wow” was prompted by the actors. There are only three but they are excellent and they fill the theatre. Dan Scharbrough plays Arthur Kipps, a tormented solicitor who hires a professional Actor, played by John Michael Goodson, to help him prepare to tell his story to his family so that he can get it out of his system and sleep without nightmares.

“We’ll make a Barrymore of you yet,” says The Actor, but Mr. Kipps insists that acting is not his forte, that he only wants to improve his delivery enough to make his family understand what happened. As the two men develop Mr. Kipp’s manuscript into a theatre piece, each plays more than one character. They brilliantly tweak their British accents and their costumes (designed by Jean Engstrom) to fit.

Sara Mark plays the silent title character. My shoulders hunched up in a shiver every time she appeared.

My “wow” was also prompted by the design of the show. The first thing we hear is a child’s laughter. It is happy but also somehow haunting, perhaps because we can’t see much. The only light at first is the tiny kind they used to leave on in theatres so no one would trip in the dark. Ironically, such lights were called “ghost lights.” There are boxes and buckets, and larger things covered in drop cloths, some partially hidden behind curtains. Ryan Koharchik’s set and lighting design holds us in the shadows like a bully, teasing us with what it will or will not reveal, and Michael J. Lasely’s sound design heightens the suspense as well.

This atmospheric piece will be most appreciated by teens and adults, rather than little kids. It was adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the novel by Susan Hill. It was directed for Civic by Robert J. Sorbera. It runs through Nov. 10 at the Tarkington Theatre in Carmel.

The Basics

What: The Woman in Black, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the book by Susan Hill

When: Now to Nov. 10

Where: Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, 3 Center Green, Carmel

Plot: Mrs. Drablow lived alone for more than 60 years in a gothic mansion on an island accessible only by a causeway at low tide. Something awful happened there and when Kipps arrives at the house himself, awful things start to happen, including an appearance of the Woman in Black. This thriller contains all the ingredients of a classic ghost story, complete with deserted mansion, haunted graveyards, and locals who don’t dare breathe a word of the horrors they have witnessed.

Cost: $39 for adults, $13 for Student Scream seats (includes college students)

Box Office: 843-3800