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'Woman in Black' is a total theater experience — but requires patience

By Jay Wamsley

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, July 22 2013 4:38 p.m. MDT

"THE WOMAN IN BLACK," Caine Lyric Theatre, 28 W. Center, Logan; $14-$25, 435-797-8022 or arts.usu.edu/lyric; running time: 105 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission‎

LOGAN — The fourth offering this summer of the Old Lyric Repertory Company, “The Woman in Black,” is a theatrical experience.

That being said, it is not for everyone.

After the company's staging of a well-known musical, a well-done Neil Simon comedy/drama and a new hilarious musical comedy, “The Woman in Black” relies on the audience to get into the production. “Woman” doesn’t easily roll off the stage and grab the audience. Rather, it edges slowly off the stage, like a fog, and requires patience and concentration.

It’s a theatrical experience in that it utilizes the entire stage — OK, the entire theater, as there is some roaming about by characters — as well as a ramped-up level of lighting design, sound effects and set. Even the props become part of the challenge, as a block of wood might be a steamer trunk, or a desk, or might be transformed into a headstone.

Even a dog and a horse make appearances. No, wait, they don’t — that was only the sound of the animal, the actors’ visualization of the animal and the audience’s imagination.

“The Woman in Black” is basically a two-actor show. That is, there are only two principal characters sharing their stories. With only two voices to maintain interest, this production could have turned into a yawn fest, but was saved from that fate by Richie Call, playing Actor, and William Grey Warren, as Mr. Kipps. Luckily, these OLRC veterans have the dynamics, dialect control and acting chops to keep the audience — those with the imaginations and patience, mind you — involved in the story.

The production is a bit difficult to explain, as Kipps and Actor more often than not play each other. Actor is hired by Kipps to give him confidence to share a story from his past, and Actor does so by assuming his role in the story, while Kipps plays other ancillary characters. That story involves Kipps, a junior solicitor, visiting an isolated old home near an isolated small coastal town to attend the funeral of a client. He is hired to go through her effects, papers and settle her estate. There he uncovers reasons why everyone in the town keeps their distance and speaks little of the home and the old woman who lived there.

Call continues to show how easily he and his characters can relate to and touch the audience. His projection is always perfect. He is a solid choice for a one- or two-person show. Warren was excellent as he picked up the mannerisms of several characters. Jarrod Larsen did a flawless job as lighting director, and the scenic design (Spencer Potter) and stage management (Sammee Wortham) were equally noteworthy.

A clap-happy Cache Valley audience nervously interrupted some Act 1 blackouts with applause, slowing the flow of the story a bit. Overall, the second act is easier on the lumbar, but still a bit of work for the imagination. Patrons with strong portions of both will likely feel rewarded.

“The Woman in Black” joins “The Odd Couple,” “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “Nunsense” in repertory until Aug. 10.

Jay Wamsley lives in Smithfield and covers events in and around Cache Valley. He can be reached at jaywams01@gmail.com

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