It was just before the twentieth century when Henry James' novella, "The Turn of the Screw," brought a ghost story to his readers. In it, we're faced with the dilemma: is the story true or a mere figment of a deranged mind?
With a cast of only two, as written by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, the density is only compounded. The first stage adaptation was by William Archibald in 1950. Benjamin Britten created an opera in 1954, and a movie was produced in 1961. In the former productions, the cast was somewhat larger, leading to less ambiguity.
The Man (David Biedel) plays a series of roles, including women. Listening intently - a must - one cannot be completely sure of just who is his major character. On the other hand, The Woman (Amy Biedel) is quite easily identifiable.
Set in a grey-and-black set by Sean Murray, with several sets of stairs, the actors, dressed by costumer Veronica Murphy in grey and black, are mostly static. It is lighting director Eric Lotze who provides an almost infinite variety of moods.
Biedel and Tierney create layers of tension through their powerful performances. Even with this, one feels Hatcher retained so many of James' words, the play could have been read, rather than acted.
Director Janet Hayatshahi relies on the power of these two excellent actors over dramatic staging.
One very nice bit is the change of character and mood by Tierney simply by a quick turn away from the audience.
The Turn of the Screw is definitely a piece for the seasoned patron and those willing to refresh their memory and research the novel. The story of a highly disturbed family will haunt you, as it should, as you leave the theater.