This is reposted from my old blog. I’ve imported the whole post (though the comments aren’t showing up at the moment) into a single space here. I’ve listed it here under its original date.
The Woman in Black
a Shanghai Repertory Theater Production
produced by Rosita L. Janbakhsh
directed by Javier Alcina
written for the stage by Stephen Mallaratt
(adapted from the book by Susan Hill)
performed at Xinguang Little Theater, Shanghai
on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010, 7:30 pm
The performance of The Woman in Black was the best I have seen by the very talented Shanghai Repertory Theater. The entire piece was performed by two actors, Javier Alcina and Joe Rux, and their versatility was one of the most impressive aspects of the evening’s performance. They played off each other well, making for an excellent dynamic throughout.
The play’s exploration of what it is that happens on the stage was brilliantly handled. Neither Alcina nor Rux came off as pretentious when discussing the theory of drama and stage acting, even as they were engaged in the whole process for us. They were very adept at pausing just long enough for the ideas to sink in, and then moving on in just the right meter for the action of the play. Less skilled actors would have, I think, gotten a little bogged down with the dialogue in the play concerning the process of play-acting and the dynamic between players and audience. That would have been catastrophic for a show like this, so I was very pleased to see the skill and poise with which Rux and Alcina handled the piece. Very professional.
The script itself is quite well written, highlighting the whole process of the engagement between the skill of the actors, the appropriate use of the written word, and the imagination of the audience. It does this even as it displays that interaction on the stage. The issue of the technology employed in theatrical performance was also a matter of discussion at several points in the play, a point that was, again, demonstrated even as it was being talked about. This dialogue makes for an amusing performance, and a thought-provoking one, creating an awareness in the audience’s mind that we are complicit in the dramatic process. It can be hard to sustain one’s participation when attention has been drawn to its necessity, but this script manages it well, never really allowing the audience to fall into the temptation to opt out of its role in creating the drama.
In this production of The Woman in Black, the use of the theater’s space was very well-managed. Although it initially seemed that the facilities would be a little too big for the crowd that had gathered, the cast managed to use the space well. It seems to me a difficult thing for two actors to fill up such a large hall with their presence — but then, that’s why they’re on stage and I am not. (Well, that’s one of the reasons.)
The only complaint I had about the production was the sound. Because it was performed for a rather small group, the sound was a little too loud for the intimate nature of the show. It got to be a little grating when there was screaming or other loud, shrill noises. It was especially noticeable because recorded sound was highlighted in the dialogue several times as one of the bits of theater technology that can be used to provoke the audience’s imagination into action.
But, honestly, that is a very small issue. When we left the show, my friends and I were all duly impressed with the whole production, especially the fine acting of Alcina and Rux. Kudos to SRT for putting up such a fine performance.
©2010 Shelly Bryant