Henry James’ The Flip of the Screw, tailored right into a two-person play onstage at Georgia Ensemble Theatre by November 13, has endured as one of the vital well-liked ghost tales, partly as a result of it offers no simple solutions.
No one, save for James, definitively is aware of what occurred at Bly Manor with that unusual governess and people poor kids, although readers have puzzled over it since 1898. Numerous variations have been constituted of the fabric, and the Jeffrey Hatcher script right here is enjoyable and spooky, giving actress Christina Leidel an actual showcase because the governess who maybe descends into hysteria.
Is the governess haunted by spirits? Is she the sufferer of some kids’s merciless pranks? Or is she merely mad?
Leidel, who appeared this summer season as a sinister maid in Lizzie at Actor’s Specific, typically narrates her actions all through the story, shedding layers of costume and letting down her hair because the prim, repressed character turns into progressively extra agitated.
Whereas interviewing to change into the caretaker for orphans Flora and Miles, the governess, who’s unnamed, instantly develops romantic notions concerning the job and her potential employer. She has a little bit of an creativeness and is raring for journey, having grown up in a really non secular family that suppressed her notions about love and intercourse.
Arriving on the manor, her fancies concerning the little household she has instantly inherited tackle sinister undertones when the housekeeper tells her the story of lifeless lovers Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, the earlier guardians of the youngsters who as soon as had a doomed affair on the property.
The present runs for 90 minutes with out intermission, and Leidel is onstage for many of that point, operating an emotional gamut that runs from maternal urges to lust to worry. The viewers by no means sees what she sees, which provides to the impact. Even the youngest youngster, Flora, who by no means speaks, stays invisible on the stage, but the governess leads her round, talking sweetly to the lady.
Her scene accomplice, Daniel Thomas Could, performs each different character within the narrative, reworking himself by voice, costume and stature each jiffy. It’s a terrific, chameleon-like efficiency. His characters really feel infused with genuine emotion, somewhat than gimmicky kitsch. It doesn’t really feel like a stunt. Could is a seasoned stage actor, and that is glorious work.
Although the viewers received’t have issue protecting observe of the characters, the narrative itself will get a bit of complicated, notably if that is your introduction to the ghost story. When the governess alternates between speaking to herself, about herself and to invisible characters or unseen spirits, it could possibly get exhausting to comply with. But it surely additionally provides to the portrayal’s unhinged taste. Leidel’s tackle twisted spinsterhood is definitely worth the worth of admission.
The set design from Jamie Bullins can be spare, with an overturned chair, a desk and a big picket staircase suggesting the large home and the grounds. The lighting design from Elisabeth Cooper is terrific and creepy, notably when the characters peer over the sting of the stage right into a murky lake.
The Flip of the Screw is a bizarre and really minimalist present, and the dearth of solutions constructed into the story will be unsatisfying. However the performers are dedicated. And James Donadio’s course deciphers the puzzle as greatest it could possibly, leaning closely into the fashionable feminist explanations of why the madhouses are stuffed with governesses.
Benjamin Carr, a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation, is an arts journalist and critic who has contributed to ArtsATL since 2019. His performs have been produced at The Winery Theatre in Manhattan, as a part of the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Quick Play Competition, and the Middle for Puppetry Arts. His novel Impacted was revealed by The Story Plant in 2021.