Review: The Woman in Black (Royal George Theatre)

| November 23, 2018

Adam Wesley Brown stars as The Actor in The Woman in Black at Royal George Theatre 9a    

  

  

The Woman in Black
 
Adapted by Stephen Mallatratt
      from novel by Susan Hill
Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
thru Feb 17  |  tix: $49-$69  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Spooky, escapist holiday fun

  

Adam Wesley Brown and Bradley Armacost star as The Actor and Arthur Kipps at Royal George Theatre 3

    
PW Productions and Pemberley Productions present
    
The Woman in Black

Review by Lauren Emily Whalen

In 1983, Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black took the UK by storm. The gothic ghost story, in which a young lawyer dodges and confronts the eerie resident of a dilapidated coastal mansion, was adapted into a 2012 film starring Daniel Radcliffe, which became the highest-grossing British horror movie of all time. Stephen Mallatratt’s 1987 stage version was a smash hit in London’s West End, and for the first time its original director Robin Herford brings the classic stateside, with a Chicago-based cast. Spooky all on its own, the Royal George Theatre mainstage is the perfect setting for this chilling two-hander, and The Woman in Black boasts jump-scares aplenty, making it an ideal, enjoyable field trip for Chicagoans and their out-of-town holiday guests.

Bradley Armacost stars as Arthur Kipps in The Woman in Black, Royal George Theatre 3Attorney Arthur Kipps (Bradley Armacost) is still haunted by a horrific long-ago encounter he experienced decades ago, while attending to the papers of a recently-deceased widow. Deciding “the play’s the thing,” Kipps hires an actor (Adam Wesley Brown) to help him make sense of the ordeal, in the form of a stage play. Past and present collide as the actor, portraying the younger Kipps while Kipps himself takes various small parts, becomes more involved in the narrative, which involves a ghostly woman dressed in black with a “wasted face,” who roams the late widow’s isolated home – and doesn’t exactly like sharing her space.

Mallatratt’s adaptation, specially commissioned by Herford, hits all the right beats of a ghost story and never discounts the powerful element of surprise. Both playwright and director rely on mood rather than special effects: there’s a certain foreboding and existential dread that pervades, even when Kipps and the actor are having a casual conversation. Though this Woman in Black clocks in at two-plus hours, it’s tightly paced, chock full of witty dialogue and occasional much-needed humor to complement the scares. Jumping between the here and now, and the events that shaped Kipps’ life, the play is the embodiment of “edge of your seat.”

Bradley Armacost and Adam Wesley Brown star as Arthur Kipps and The Actor at Royal George Theatre 4Adam Wesley Brown stars as The Actor in The Woman in Black at Royal George Theatre 8 Bradley Armacost and Adam Wesley Brown star as Arthur Kipps and The Actor at Royal George Theatre 3Bradley Armacost and Adam Wesley Brown star as Arthur Kipps and The Actor at Royal George Theatre 5 Adam Wesley Brown stars as The Actor in The Woman in Black at Royal George Theatre 9Adam Wesley Brown stars as The Actor in The Woman in Black at Royal George Theatre 2

Both actors are brilliantly cast, jumping into the story with both feet and creating a believable rapport that over the course of the play, grows into a caring friendship. Armacost, who’s won several Jeff Awards and has enjoyed a long career on stage and screen, has a jovial, grandfatherly air that doesn’t quite camouflage the trauma from which he’s still recovering. His Kipps is sympathetic, blustery nature and sad eyes, eager to shake off this spirit and live anew. Brown has appeared in several Chicago Shakespeare Theater productions as well as Once on Broadway, and has the genial charisma to prove it. As the actor who reveals little about himself except the fact that he has a beloved young daughter, Brown is there to tell Kipps’ story, and his journey from casual observer to full-on participant is compelling.

The Woman in Black isn’t for small children, but is escapist fun for every demographic from teenagers to their grandparents. Most modern-day horror is rooted in reality, drawing from the divisive political environment and the dangers of simply living. The Woman in Black, while scary in its own right, transports the audience to a different place and time, and that may be the best holiday gift of all.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  

The Woman in Black continues through February 17th at Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map), with performances Wednesdays-Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays 2:30pm & 7:30pm, Sundays 2:30pm & 7pm.  Tickets are $49-$69, and are available by phone (312-988-9000) or through Ticketmaster.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More at TheWomanInBlack.com(Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes, includes an intermission)

Adam Wesley Brown and Bradley Armacost star as The Actor and Arthur Kipps at Royal George Theatre

Photos by Roger Mastroianni


  

artists

cast

Bradley Armacost (Arthur Kipps), Adam Wesley Brown (The Actor)

Standbys: Simon Hedger (Arthur Kipps), Nick Vidal (The Actor)

behind the scenes

Robin Herford (director), Michael Holt (designer), Kevin Sleep (lighting design), Rod Mead (original sound design), Gareth Owen (sound design), Laura Stancyzk (casting director), Eva Breneman (dialect coach), Anshuman Bhatia (associate set and lighting design), Magdalene Spanuello (associate director), kClare McKellaston (associate costume design), Ray Nardelli (associate sound design), David A. Loranca (production stage manager), Annie Zaruba-Walker (assistant stage manager), Tim Smith, Andrew D. Hamingson (general managers), Roger Mastroianni (photos)

Bradley Armacost (Arthur Kipps), Adam Wesley Brown (The Actor) and Robin Herford (director) from The Woman in BlackSimon Hedger, Bradley Armacost, Nick Vidal and Adam Wesley Brown star in The Woman in Black, Royal George Theater

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Category: 2018 Reviews, Lauren Emily Whalen, National Tours, Royal George Theatre

Comments (1)

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  1. IT WAS SO AMAZING A LIL OFF FROM THE MOVIE BUT MYSELF AND MY DAUGHTERS WENT WENT AND WE WERE IN AWE TRYNA FIGURE OUT HOW THEY WERE GONNA PULL OFF A SCARY MOVIE PLAY..BUT THEY DID IT ..THEY DID IT..IT WAS STUNNING..