Monday April 21st 2014

“The Turn Of The Screw”

Everyone loves a good ghost story! Mystery is something that we all find intriguing. First Folio Theatre, a troupe that can tackle anything, as its latest production is performing “The Turn Of The Screw”, a psychological thriller written by Henry James in a stage adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher. If someone were to ask where might be the best place to perform a thriller such as this, a place where the walls have stories of their own,   they might say, Mayslake Peabody Estates in Oak Brook would be ideal. For those of you unfamiliar with this landmark, it is a massive building owned and operated by the Forest Preserve, set off from the busy streets of Oak Brook and the chapel has become the indoor venue for this troupe ( Summer productions are done outside, on the spacious grounds).

This is a two actor play that tells a tale about a Governess, who has been hired by a man of wealth to tend to his nephew and niece on their estate. Directed skillfully by Alison C.Vesely using two actors to play all the roles, in particular, Nick Sandys, who is the uncle, the nephew, the housekeeper and a bird of importance in this chilling dark mystery. Melanie Keller is astonishing as the young governess as we witness in 90 minutes, a tale that will keep your focus from the very first breaths of Mr. Sandys until the conclusion of this story of 6 days. The orphaned children had a previous governess, who it turns out passed away as did her lover. Now, as these visions and the strange behaviour of the boy and girl take hold on her, she begins to feel and see these shadowed figures, who are seeking to take the children to “the other side”, she begins to find ways to save them from this fate.

The questions begin to take us to another place. Are the ghosts real? Has she imagined them as a way to resolve her uneasiness with the boy, who at 10 appears to have an adult mind ( although somewhat unreal). Sandys, by the way, handles this role with a special, boyish charm, unlike any other role I have seen him play. This set is a dark, black draped stage , with some stairs and a big white easy chair ( Christopher Jensen) and the costumes by  Emily Waeker, very fitting for the times. What truly plays into making this a very special production is the lighting( Michael McNamara) and the sound (Christopher Kriz)- these two elements and the skillful acting of these actors make for an exciting, chilling theatrical experience. The haunting story deals with a special type of seduction- that of the characters over the audience and the question of what really happened to these children during the previous governess stay? And what really happened to her and her lover? These are questions that will be interpreted in different ways by different viewers and that is what makes this production the enchanting, powerful theater that it is!

“Turn” will continue at First Folio at Mayslake Peabody Estate located at 31st Street, just west of Route 83 in Oak Brook through April 29th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $26-$37 ( a great value for theater of this quality) and can be purchased by calling  630-986-8067 or online at www.firstfolio.org and there are student and senior discounts as well.

First Folio is easy to get to and there is plenty of free parking. Arrive a bit early and take a stroll around the estate, it may just set the mood for the play you are about to witness.

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