Gaslight

  • Date:
    May 1, 2007
    Review by:
    Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus

    Ladies, you say your husband always leaves the toilet seat up, shops for you but returns from the supermarket with potato chips and donuts instead of red potatoes and walnuts, throws his socks on the floor instead of into the hamper and he's driving you crazy?

    Trust us here, you don't know what being driven crazy is until you meet Jack Manningham, every woman's nightmare of a husband. Artfully played by David Staller, whose Broadway credits include "Cabaret" and "Evita," his Jack is a shrewd, soft-spoken man who strikes terror in the heart of his fragile wife every time he says he needs to talk to her.

    Such is the situation we are confronted with in Patrick Hamilton's "Gaslight," the 1941 play originally titled "Angel Street," and made into a movie in 1944 with Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Angela Lansbury. This psychological thriller is now thrilling audiences nightly at Irish Rep, where the suspense is unrelieved, and there is no relief until the surprise ending.

    With a bustle as uptight as her demeanor, Bella, the slightly ditzy Victorian wife, demurely played by Laura Odeh, is convinced that everything is her fault. Every trinket out of place, every picture that mysteriously disappears from the wall; every daunting stare by the sinister Jack, is surely caused by her inadequacies. An hysteric, a la Freud, there's nothing left to do but give her the "salts" and send her to a mental hospital.

    Pacing aimlessly in a dreary parlor complete with curtained ropes to ring for the servants, Bella is quite alone in the world. Who would believe her plight? She must be going mad, like her mother. Even the seductive Nancy (Laoisa Sexton), a servant with attitude, looks upon her with disdain.

    Of course it's all Bella's fault. What other explanation could there be for such bizarre behavior? That's why Jack leaves for hours on end. No self-respecting narcissistic gentleman could put up with such nonsense for too long. It is, after all, so exhausting.

    Fortunately, Bella has a guardian angel in the form of a servant more sympathetic than Nancy. The elderly Elizabeth (Patricia O'Connell), surreptitiously has taken matters into her own hands, and . . .

    Suddenly, the gaslights flicker. Noises in the attic begin to intensify. There's a stranger at the door! It�s � it's � the Detective to the rescue! No, not Columbo, but Rough, played to perfection by a very smooth Brian Murray.

    Still in the top of his form, this veteran actor, who appeared in "Sleuth," "The Real Inspector Hound," and "Wait Until Dark," is no stranger to gumshoe roles, and he plays this one to the hilt in intense melodramatic style. Rough suggests to the frightened Bella that there could be another explanation.

    Could her beloved Jack actually be more terrorist than tyrant. Could he even be -- horrors! -- a murderer? Could all the items that get "lost" in this house not be "lost" after all? James Morgan's Victorian set is so cluttered with furniture, bric-a-brac, paintings and statuettes, it would be easy for even a librarian to lose things.

    The twists and turns of all the jigsaw pieces fit together beautifully in this revival. You must go see the "Gaslight" flicker for yourselves to appreciate the intricacies of the self-deprecating wife fighting for survival against the manipulative devil she married. What is it about those bad boys, anyway?

    Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus

     

     

    What the press had to say.....

    MATT WINDMAN of am New York: �'Gaslight' is a seriously fun dose of summertime drama. Particularly wonderful is Brian Murray's performance as the pot-bellied, straight-whiskered police inspector "

    FRANK SCHECK of THe NEW YORK POST: "While 'Gaslight' isn't the most credible thriller ever written, it still provides vivid suspense. Director Charlotte Moore has delivered a wonderfully atmospheric production, aided by terrific scenery and lighting and an endlessly entertaining turn from Murray."

    MICHAEL SOMMERS of STAR-LEDGER: "Theatergoers with a taste for suspense are likely to find "Gaslight" a good old-fashioned time"

    JOY GOODWIN of the NEW YORK SUN: "As staged at the Irish Rep, the play retains all the delicious, shivery melodrama of an old movie."

    MARK BLANKENSHIP of VARIETY: "The company delivers a satisfying noir thriller that gives us permission to chuckle at over-the-top flourishes. Once the silliness has been acknowledged, it's easier just to sit back and be entertained."

    External links to full reviews from newspapers

    am New York
    New York Post
    New York Sun
    Variety