Village Theatre presents, The Uninvited, by Tim Kelly. Directed by Elaine Hale and Peter Gruner, in its original form, this piece was a novel written by Dorothy Macardle in 1941. I suspect this is why the script suffers from a severe case of “too much information”. Characters come out of the woodwork without clear introduction — and that’s not even the scary part — sharing pages of information that might be best presented in map form. I’m sure it all fit in the novel splendidly, but the stage version needs a trimming. Hale and Gruner did their best to meet the challenges of this piece, but sometimes community theatre just doesn’t have the resources to overcome a weak script. In its current manifestation, it’s a family friendly, harmless night out. If that’s on your agenda, it fits the bill, and it’s cheaper than a trip to the movie theatre.
Characters have to be strong in a production like this. They have a lot of work to do: sharing information, building tension, creating relationships and engaging the audience. It’s really an ensemble effort, but inconsistencies in individual performances and overall skills left this ensemble weak. Except in a few cases, accents were not sustained throughout. This is disconcerting when the script itself is meandering already. The audience never quite feels like it’s in safe hands which mean that they never suspend their disbelief. This is a key problem in a production about the paranormal.
Consistent and strong performances were given by Jennifer Graham as Pamela Fitzgerald, Deb Degenais as Lizzie Flynn, and Tom Mays as Roddy Fitzgerald; although, Mays does have to watch his projection and diction. Other characters suffered in varying degrees from their poor presentation in the script, to their troubled accents, and to some degree, it’s the director’s responsibility to make sense of the things that are floundering. For example, the budding relationship with Roddy Fitzgerald and Stella Meredith, played by Andrea Adcock doesn’t quite make it off the ground. The words tell us something is going on but the blocking and body language don’t give us much to go on. In the end, it’s hard to decide if you are rooting for this romance or not. Also puzzling is Max Hilliard played by Michael Mavin. Acting is about re–acting, but Mavin puts a lot of emphasis on interjecting. This is confusing and breaks the flow in many of the scenes in the second act.
As for the presentation of apparitions in live theatre, less is always more. Taking a hint from this tales 1940’s style, the best part is always the build. The less we see, the more we imagine. The central haunting is the nursery. The script mentions how far away the nursery is from the rest of the house; yet, the door is placed in one of the most central positions on stage. Furniture and people crowd outside the door in every scene destroying the view and the sense of isolation mentioned in the text. It’s odd as well to enter a room which is known to inhabit a ghost and shut the door behind you every time. It says to the audience, there is no fear, and if there is no fear, there is no tension or suspense.
In the end, it’s an attractive production with all the right dressings but not much to keep you on the edge. Still, it isn’t often you get to see this genre of work in live theatre and kudos to Village Theatre for trying it out. If you like mysteries, puzzles, séances and haunting this is the show for you. V
Feb. 21–23, 28, March 1
@ The Village Theatre Waterdown,
317 Dundas E., Waterdown