Death becomes her

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Performance: Los Alamos Little Theatre presents, ‘The Woman in Black,’ opening Friday

By Jennifer Garcia

Oct.  31 may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean Halloween has to end.
Los Alamos Little Theatre brings the spooky and macabre to the stage with their production of “The Woman in Black,” directed by Laurie Tomlinson and starring Patrick Webb and Warren Houghteling.
The plot follows Arthur Kipps, who is trying to “perform a story and hires an actor to help him. They attempt a performance about when Kipps went to help settle the estate of the late Mrs. Drablow. When Kipps attends the funeral, he first encounters the woman in black. He inquires about the woman at the funeral, only to find out there was no woman there.
“Kipps begins to sort through some papers and again encounters the woman in black at a cemetery. He soon begins to realize the possibility that this woman is an unsettled spirit. He becomes very aware that what he is seeing is s ghost,” according to the LALT newsletter.
Tomlinson, who has directed the last three musicals for Los Alamos Light Opera, and has been involved with LALT since 1984, said she decided to direct “The Woman in Black” because the movie with Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) came out last spring. This also happens to be the first non-musical that she has directed.
“It’s based loosely on the play and the novel, although the play has only two characters and ends differently,” she said. “I thought the exposure of the movie would be a draw to the play, particularly for middle and high school students.”
She also said she hopes the audience gets goose bumps after seeing the play.
“It’s a gripping, gothic horror story that has the potential to send shivers up your spine,” Tomlinson said.
The biggest challenge she faced was lighting and sound effects for the performance. “The audience’s fear is sparked more by imagination rather than blood and gore,” she said.
Webb is a newcomer to LALT. He’s been involved with the theatre for a little more than a year. His interest in doing another show, along with the fact that he had some time and the production looked like a “huge challenge” all helped him decide to audition.
He plays the actor contracted by Kipps to help him tell his tale and has been rehearsing his part in “The Woman in Black” since mid-September and learning his lines. And despite the fact that he enjoys the spookiness of the play, he said the most difficult aspect of being part of this production is “the sheer number of props to interact with and keep track of.”
Though Webb said this is a scary play, he also said it’s a family friend one.
“Adults will love it and any children who are old enough to enjoy full length plays (will enjoy it),” he said. “Let yourself be drawn into the magic of the theatre. It is a show within a show, so embrace the theatrical conceits and let your imagination do the heavy lifting.”
Houghteling (Arthur Kipps) is no stranger to the stage — or to LALT. His first show with the theatre group was “Prometheus Bound,” which was performed at LALT’s entry in the AACTFest one-act play competition in the winter of 2008. He has performed in many LALT productions and served two years on the board before stepping down in 2011.
Despite his various roles, Houghteling has never done a ghost play “or a play specifically aimed at frightening its audience,” so he thought playing Kipps would be an interesting challenge.
“I had also never done a full-length two-man show before,” he said. He is most looking forward to playing multiple characters, each with their own personality.
“I also enjoy the long passages of narration I get to speak; many of them are quite poetic and gripping in their intensity,” he said.
For Houghteling, the most challenging aspect of preparing for this production was learning the lines.
“There are an awful lot of lines to learn. This isn’t the first play I’ve performed in where my character essentially never leaves the stage (that was also true of David O. Selznick in ‘Moonlight and Magnolias’), but this play is even more intense in that regard, as there are only two of us who speak all the lines,” he said.
“The Woman in Black” opens at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 and will run Friday and Saturday evenings for three weekends. There will also be a Sunday matinee Nov. 11. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at CB Fox and at the door.
For more information, visit lalt.org.