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Around Halloween, a mysterious black-clad woman appeared in Los Alamos. She said nothing. Instead, she walked around, eyes staring blankly ahead — and was spotted at Trick or Treat on MainStreet and the annual Los Alamos County employee appreciation event.
Many wondered if she was dressed up for Halloween, but it was not hard to figure out that she was dressed almost identical to the Los Alamos Little Theatre’s scarecrow, announcing their latest production, “The Woman in Black.”
To say “The Woman in Black” is a scare-fest would not be accurate. To say it’s creepy, dark and a bit unnerving is far more accurate.
Los Alamos Little Theatre’s latest production opened Nov. 2, the day after the Day of the Dead, which seems to be rather fitting, considering that the play focuses on the supernatural and one man’s quest to rid himself of the evil that follows him.
Arthur Kipps (Warren Houghteling) has hired an actor (Patrick Webb), to help him retell his experiences with The Woman in Black. He has been called upon to settle the estate of Mrs. Drablow.
Along the way, he encounters various characters that seem squeamish whenever Drablow or the estate is mentioned.
Despite the strange reactions from these people, Kipps continues on his journey, set on accomplishing the task at hand. It’s not until he reaches the estate, that he realizes there’s something amiss. He has seen a black-clad figure in the cemetery and becomes frightened — so much, in fact, that he turns on every light in the house.
A mysterious locked door does nothing to calm his nerves, but he leaves it alone at first. Eventually, he finds out what exactly is behind that door. All the while, the mysterious woman continues to appear.
It won’t be long before Kipps finds out exactly who the Woman in Black is and what she can do to mortals.
The play starts out slow and is sort of hard to keep up with. The audience must pay close attention to what is going on because Kipps and the actor are constantly changing roles. It’s a play within a play. One the one hand, you have Houghteling and Webb playing Kipps and the actor. On the other hand, there is Kipps and the actor playing various roles, as Kipps’ story is told. One minute Kipps is a bartender, the next he’s a stagecoach driver. Meanwhile, the actor plays Kipps’ part.
Though one can become lost with all the role changes, the point becomes clear by the second act — and by the end of the play, it all comes together.
Despite the fact that Houghteling and Webb are the only actors in this two-act play, they do a great job. They both speak in English accents and never break character. In fact, they never once let their accents slip.
The set is simple and consists of a coat rack with various hats, coats, etc. There’s a trunk and a chair that grace the stage and little else. Throughout the production, Houghteling and Webb change hats and coats as they take on their various roles.
There is one particular scene in which the actor enters the cemetery. At first glance, it would appear that there is an off-white wall on stage, but during this scene, the actor walks behind the “wall,” at which point the lights are put on him. The wall is in fact a curtain, which gives the actor and the cemetery a foggy, hazy appearance. It’s a very nice effect.
Imagination is a big part of this production. Not only does the actor tell Kipps that the audience must use their imaginations, but the actual LALT audience must also use their imaginations. For example, when Kipps plays a stagecoach driver, he sits on the trunk, with a crop in hand.
One must imagine that he is atop a stagecoach, driving to the Drablow estate. The use of sound effects such as a horse clomping along, help the audience envision the scene.
In another scene, a dog is introduced to keep the actor company at the Drablow house. However, there is no prop and no dog. Instead, there are only sound effects mimicking a dog.
The costumes are simple. Houghteling and Webb wear dress slacks, vests and crisp button-down shirts. They are indicative of the time period. The mysterious Woman in Black is clad in a black dress, black gloves and black veiled hat. Her face is barely visible.
There are two actors that portray the Woman in Black, but their identities are never revealed. In fact, their names do not even appear on the program. This adds to the mysteriousness of that role.
Throughout the production, the actors move silently on and off stage. One particular effect that is sure to creep out the audience, is when the figure appears in the aisle, then suddenly appears on stage moments later. It’s evident at that point that there are two women in black, because it would be impossible for her to move that quickly, unless, she is a ghost.
Houghteling and Webb have challenging roles, but despite that fact, they both do an excellent job at telling the story within the story.
There are a few moments that might make the audience jump and it’s not uncommon to look over one’s shoulder, expecting the ghostly figure to be there. It’s a creepy story, but an interesting one, that is sure to keep the audience on its toes.
Don’t be afraid of the dark and don’t be afraid to see “The Woman in Black.”
There is still a chance to catch “The Woman in Black” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Los Alamos Performing Arts Center, 1670 Nectar St.
Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students. They can be purchased at CB Fox or at the door. For more information, visit lalt.org.