Thursday, October 22, 2015

ANGEL STREET (GASLIGHT) • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

It’s the perfect time of year for the Rep’s current Mainstage production -- right when Autumn’s chill starts to set in. Patrick Hamilton’s dramatic thriller premiered on the West End in 1938 under the simple name, “Gas Light,” but opened under the title “Angel Street” when it debuted in New York a few years later. The popularity of the play and the film adaptations that followed, resulted in the coining of the term “gas-lighting,” defined as “a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.”

That’s precisely what’s going down in the gloomy Manningham home on Angel Street in 1880’s London.

Janie Brookshire (Bella) and Clark Scott Carmichael (Jack).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
When we meet Bella Manningham (Janie Brookshire), she’s an anxious, jittery bundle of nerves, and her domineering husband of five years, Jack (Clark Scott Carmichael), is a man of little patience. In fact, he’s really kind of a jerk with barely a trace of compassion in him. He berates her for losing or misplacing things, and plays on Bella’s fear of heading towards the same fate as her mother, who died in an asylum for the mentally ill. When Bella insists that she’s hearing things in the house, Jack tells her that she’s imagining it. When she tells him that the gas lights dim and brighten on their own when she’s alone in the house at night, after Jack has gone off to God knows where, he accuses her of losing it. The housekeeper, Elizabeth (Amelia White), is sympathetic, while their impudent maid, Nancy (Rachel Kenney), spends her time flirting on the sly with Jack, pushing Bella to further despair. During one of Jack’s outings, Bella receives a visitor -- a retired Detective named Rough (Geoffrey Wade), who seemingly comes to help her, armed with a few tidbits about the house and theories of his own. That's when things really kick off.

Geoffrey Wade (Rough)
and Janie Brookshire (Bella).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Under Jenn Thompson's beautifully paced direction, there are fine performances from Brookshire as Bella, a woman unhinged under the thumb of her husband, desperate to please and grateful for the smallest kindness. Carmichael imparts some nice shading in his performance as Jack, despite his character being oppressive and stony. Kenney is opportunistic and cheeky as the maid Nancy, and White is carefully gauged as the watchful housekeeper, Elizabeth. Wade turns in a great performance as Detective Rough -- charming, resolute, and just quirky enough to be quite engaging whenever he’s onstage.

The creative contributions in this production are marvelous, starting with Wilson Chin’s exceptional scenic design, deftly revealed over the course of the play (that's all I'll say, as seeing it for yourself is a real treat), enhanced with the addition of Peter E. Sargent’s precise, eerie lighting design. Rusty Wandall’s sound design of macabre music, ticking clocks and ominous droning adds a distinct chill to the proceedings, and David Toser’s finely detailed costume design epitomizes 19th century London.

This scrumptious production is guaranteed to captivate. If I were you I'd get a ticket right now, and see it before it’s too late. Seriously.

Amelia White (Nancy) and Janie Brookshire (Bella).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey


Written by Patrick Hamilton
Directed by Jenn Thompson 
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through November 8 | tickets: $21 - $79.50
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, selected Wednesdays through Fridays at 8pm, selected Wednesdays at 1:30pm, Saturdays at 4pm, selected Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm, selected Sundays at 7pm

Bella Manningham: Janie Brookshire*
Jack Manningham: Clark Scott Carmichael*
Nancy: Rachel Kenney*
Detective Rough: Geoffrey Wade*
Elizabeth: Amelia White*
Bobby: Andrew Oppman
Bobby: Josh Roach

Geoffrey Wade (Rough) and Janie Brookshire (Bella).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Scenic Designer: Wilson Chin
Lighting Designer: Peter E. Sargent
Costumer Designer: David Toser
Sound Designer: Rusty Wandall
Casting Director: Rich Cole
Stage Manager: Champe Leary*
Assistant Stage Manager: Tony Dearing*

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

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