RAVES FOR GASLIGHT!
"Patrick Hamilton's 1944 potboiler (originally Angel Street) continues to be one of the most revived theatrical chestnuts because its melodrama is so unapologetically intense. In an unfashionable section of late-Victorian London, our heroine Mrs. Manningham (Corrine Shor) is tormented by demons of insanity and the cruel taunting of her domineering husband (John Cygan). Additionally the master is sensually attentive to the young buxom maid (Emily Bridges) - or is it her imagination? Jeff G. Rack's lavishly detailed burgundy set, with perfect gaslight effects by lighting designer Yancey Dunham, creates the ideal atmosphere for the dripping suspense. The actors, under Charlie Mount's austere direction, commit fully to the chilling revelations as we move slowly towards a known outcome. Don Moss is particularly delightful as a hard-bitten Scotland Yard detective, even though he joined the production late in rehearsals and was still a bit shaky on his lines at the performance I saw. Likewise the smallish role of a comic maid (in a fine performance by Mary Garripoli) turns into a tense ally of the oppressed Mrs. M. Costumes by Valentino round out this very satisfying production. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; opens Aug. 28; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (323) 851-7977. (Tom Provenzano)"
Theater review: 'Gaslight' at Theatre West
September 3, 2009 | 3:45 pm
UNDER CHARLIE MOUNT'S DIRECTION THIS CHESTNUT HAS BEEN ROASTED TO A GOLDEN TURN
"Theatre West resurrects Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 thriller “Gaslight” as part of its Chestnuts series, which reintroduces neglected classics to modern-day audiences.
The play, which broke records on Broadway in 1941 under the title “Angel Street,” starred Vincent Price as the malevolent Mr. Manningham, an autocratic husband intent upon driving his downtrodden wife to madness. The 1944 film version, starring Charles Boyer as the sociopathic spouse, garnered Ingrid Bergman a best actress Oscar.
Fans of the film will find it fascinating to compare Hamilton’s play with the film, whose three credited screenwriters largely improved upon the original – a rare occurrence in Hollywood adaptations.
Hamilton’s decidedly expository play may be creaky at times, but it’s the satisfyingly eerie creak of closet doors opening to reveal hidden skeletons. Set designer Jeff G. Rack’s Victorian parlor hints at hidden passages leading into darkness, while Yancey Dunham’s ominously flickering lighting augments the tension.
Under Charlie Mount’s direction, this chestnut has been roasted to a golden turn. You might scorch your fingers a bit on Don Moss as Inspector Rough, the indefatigable sleuth out to bag an elusive old nemesis. Moss, who replaced another actor after the programs were printed, is a bit rough as Rough, but one suspects he will smooth out over the course of the run. Naturally, anyone battling the ghost of Ingrid Berman has an uphill campaign, but if you can master your irritation at her character’s initial lack of backbone, you’ll find Corinne Shor’s Mrs. Manningham tremendously appealing. But the evening’s darkest pleasure is John Cygan as the suavely commanding Mr. Manningham, whose masterful creepiness is nothing short of enthralling.
-- F. Kathleen Foley
Grigware Talks Theatre
"CRITIC'S PICK! 5 OUT OF 5 STARS!"
"When Gaslight premiered on Broadway in 1941 it was titled Angel Street; the film in 1944 was renamed Gaslight. The devilish Mr. Manningham (really Steven Powell) abiding on Angel Street: clearly an ironic twist! Gaslight remains a more complex and intriguing title. Whatever its name, the play as a Victorian thriller, when done well, is both utterly suspenseful and charmingly melodramatic. Theatre West in its Chestnut Series (Revivals of Great Plays) and producer/director Charlie Mount are presenting a truly handsome and polished production of the classic.
Those familiar with the movie will forever remember Ingrid Bergman's astounding performance, so the play must have an outstanding leading lady to play Bella Manningham, slowly and methodically being driven insane by her conniving husband. The audience must be convinced of her innermost fears and desperation. Corinne Shor fits the bill, providing much, much more. In her hands, Bella is girlsihly gitty, charming, devoted, kind and totally vulnerable to Manningham's (John Cygan) despiccable lies and manipulation. Cygan underplays, creating the perfect villain: he appears debonnaire with every move, in fact, every woman's dream, and yet with a sudden and subtle turn of phrase, metaphorically sends a poisonous arrow straight to Bella's heart. The older servant Elizabeth has a delicate comedic flair in the fine performance of Mary Garripoli, and lovely Emily Bridges makes Nancy a saucy temptress in her seduction of Manningham - something the wonderful Angela Lansbury could never have done on film due to the strict censorship of the time. Of the excellent ensemble, it is Don Moss as Inspector Rough who steals the show. His momnet-to-moment absent-mindedness and unexpected clever ability to figure out the most minute details of the crime add great humor to the proceedings.
The set design by Jeff G. Rack is elegant, especially the reds, as are the costumes by Valentino. Mount's direction is impeccable, making the entire production as sumptuously entertaining as a hearty Beef Wellington. Britannia rules at Theatre West!"
The Tolucan Times
A classic Victorian thriller that held the audience captive from start to finish… This is an excellent production! As good as it gets, in all areas of theatrical magic… the performances, direction and mood setting technical design blended perfectly. Sure to be a hit for Theatre West (founded 47 years ago), this is the first play in their six show, subscription season. Written with scintillating suspense by Patrick Hamilton, “Gaslight” premiered in London in 1939, and then opened in New York in 1941, becoming the longest running non-musical in Broadways history. Later, a film starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, this darkly intriguing story has surely endured the test of time. Taking place in 1880 at the troubled home of Mr. and Mrs. Manningham (gorgeous set by Jeff G. Rack), we peer into the complex lives of an “oh so proper” British couple. He, a handsome, dapper, heartless cad, is secretly torturing his timid wife into insanity. Accusing her of petty aberrations and unexplainable deeds, that he has deviously arranged himself, she is so convinced that like her mother before her… she is totally losing her mind. The eerie lighting (Yancy Dunham), sound (Charlie Mount) and impeccably lovely Victorian attire (Valentino Costumes), set the tone for our total enjoyment. Under the well-timed, inspiring direction of Charlie Mount, a gifted cast excels throughout! John Cygan is despicably delicious as Mr. M… a stylish rogue “with a roving eye,” who’s every manipulative moment in life is motivated by greed. As Mrs. M., Corrine Shore is heart-wrenchingly focused, as the lonely and eager to please Mistress of the house terrifyingly questioning her own sanity. Don Moss is a total joy as a police Inspector who’s been trying to “nail” Mr. M. for a murder committed 15 years back. A quirky cop with a long burning passion to capture this slippery killer… he turns up to prove his theory, and rescue our damsel in distress. As the two house servants: Mary Garripoli as Elizabeth… a dutiful yet feisty maid with her mistress’ well-being at heart., and Emily Bridges as Nancy… a “Victorian Vixen” with a burning desire for her cold-hearted employer… Both give spirited performances! Roger Cruz rounds out the cast as a cop in a wordless cameo role. This is a wonderful production, sure to titillate L.A. theatre lovers!
"GASLIGHT IS A GAS! There are eerie things going down on Angel Street in Patrick Hamilton’s Victorian thriller, Gaslight. Mrs. Manningham (Corinne Shor) suspects she is losing her mind. Pictures disappear from the walls, bills get misplaced, and her favorite hair brush has been missing for months. Her husband, Mr. Manningham (John Cygan) accuses her of loosing or hiding the items. She cannot recollect doing any of these things, and fears that she will go mad just as her very own mother did. To make matters worse, Mrs. Manningham is thwarted by her lascivious young maid, Nancy (Emily Bridges). Luckily, her older maid, Elizabeth (Mary Garripoli) remains loyal. Mrs. Manningham finally gets respite in the form of an odd retired detective, Inspector Rough (Don Moss). He believes something more insidious is happening.
It’s a great revival of a great little play. It’s a top notch production with talented actors, a clever script, and effective scenery and costumes.
Moss sparkles as Inspector Rough. There is a mad twinkle in his eye as he slowly uncovers the details to the mysterious plot. Cygan’s Manningham is delightfully demonic. He is a cruel villain. He portrays Manningham as deliciously wicked. His lust bubbles to the surface in a marvelous scene with the scullery maid, Nancy. Cygan and Bridges pop with intensity as they coyly dance around each other. Shor deftly plays the lead, Mrs. Manningham. Though she is marvelous throughout the production, her final scene is a triumph.
Jeff G. Rack’s set design is flawless. The drawing room is the very model of a Victorian manse. Every detail is perfect. Director Charlie Mount does an excellent job. He keeps the show moving briskly."
--Mike Buzzelli (mikebuzzelli.com)
After its success as a theatre production in London, Patrick Hamilton’s 1928 Victorian Thriller, Gaslight, was made into a movie in England followed by a filming in 1944 in Hollywood starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotton and 19-year old Angela Lansbury in her first movie. Kudos to Producer/Director Charlie Mount of Theatre West for selecting this electrifying play as the theatre’s first production of the 2009/10 Season.
Set in 1880, in the living room of a home in London (set by Jeff G. Rack), the story is about young Bella Manningham (Corinne Shor) who is completely dominated by her husband Jack (John Cygan). It appears that Bella is having a problem, mysteriously losing things, finding pictures missing from the walls, seeing the gaslights dimming as she hears footsteps in the upstairs of the house (where she is forbidden to ever enter). Her husband Jack has no patience with her seemingly mental problems and accuses her of going insane, leaving her nightly as he goes out on the town. Bella sits alone convincing herself that she is losing her mind since her mother went insane before her death. She also believes that Nancy (Emily Bridges), one of the young household maids, dislikes her and seems to be eyeing Jack. Fortunately, Bella has one person she can trust, her housekeeper Elizabeth (Mary Garripoli) who seems to be aware of Mr. Manningham’s cruelty towards his wife.
An unexpected gentleman, Inspector Rough (Don Moss) arrives at the house on one of those evenings when Mr. Manningham is away. Though Bella tries to get rid of him, the longer he stays and explains the reasons for his visit, she is finally convinced of his purpose in coming. She is made aware of the fact that her husband is a criminal who murdered a woman in the same house where they are living and that he has been persecuting her by arranging the mysterious happenings in the house in order to get rid of her as well. Finally Inspector Rough uncovers the evidence he has needed to solve a case he has worked on for fifteen years.
The role of Bella Manningham is performed with perfection by Corrine Shor, in showing fear of her husband; John Cygan is chilling as Jack Manningham (enough to frighten anyone). Emily Bridges proves that Nancy isn’t afraid of Mr. Manningham when she tries to come on strong to him. And Mary Garripoli is a charming, loyal and helpful housekeeper. Don Moss, who adds some lightness in this heavy drama, as Inspector Rough proves his talent as somewhat of a comedian as well as a fine actor (stepping into the roll less than three weeks before opening)! Lighting design is by Yancey Dunham.
My Daily Find
Classic “Gaslight” staged at Theatre West
September 3, 200
BY PAULINE ADAMEK
First staged in Britain in 1938, Patrick Hamilton’s moody period melodrama “Gaslight” was re-titled “Angel Street” and opened on Broadway in 1941, becoming the longest-running non-musical in Broadway history. The play was turned into a British film in 1939. Only five years later, the story then received the lavish Hollywood treatment in George Cukor’s memorable movie, starring the fragile and luminous Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer as the suave psychopath.
In its day, the story of this classic Victorian thriller had such an impact that the term “Gaslighting” entered common usage to mean a specific form of psychological abuse. “Gaslighting” is a form of intimidation in which false information is presented to the victim, causing them to doubt their own memory and perception. The classic example of “gaslighting” is to change things in a person’s environment without their knowledge, and to explain that they “must be imagining things” when they challenge these alterations. In Hamilton’s play, the eerie and inexplicable dimming of the gaslight illuminating the Victorian home is also an important element to the suspense.
An overbearing husband preys on the sanity of his young wife, inflaming her anxiety with tricks and malicious mind games in order to slowly turn her insane. His slow-burning scheme is driven by his desire to conceal his criminal past while surreptitiously ransacking the house for a cache of precious rubies. During one of his nightly absences from the home, the benign Inspector Rough (Don Moss) calls on the lady of the house to alert her to her husband’s murderous past and malevolent designs. Together they race against time to amass enough evidence to put him out of her life forever.
The play is set in fog-bound London during 1880, in the well-appointed drawing room in the lower middle class home of Jack Manningham (played by John Cygan) and his wife Bella (Corinne Shor). In fact, menace lurks in the air like an unseen fog right from the start. As soon as the stage lights up, we see that the mistress of the house is nervy and ill-at-ease. Passive-aggressive comments from her husband, such as “Why are you so apprehensive? I was not about to reproach you,” just serve to tighten the screws on her clearly frayed nerves. Bella’s stern and punitive husband rules the roost with a firm hand, lecturing and admonishing her with comments like, “There’s your extraordinary confusion of mind, again,” when it is he who is perpetually confusing her.
Although somewhat one-note, the character of Manningham is deliciously cruel. He is a master manipulator, cleverly playing on and belittling Bella’s whims, such as her love of the theatre, offering delightful rewards only to swiftly withdraw them in order to punish her. We see her trying so hard to please him – something he capriciously makes impossible for her to achieve. It’s as if this fellow wrote the book on controlling and oppressively manipulative relationships. John Cygan plays this evil, two-dimensional psychopath with great conviction.
Manningham’s most insidious tactic is to hide various things belonging to Bella and then reproach her for their loss. He further turns the screw on his mental torture with comments such as, “I think you imagine things, my dear.” A short period of this relentless kind of brainwashing would swiftly drive even a secure personality mad!
Intrinsic to Bella’s suffering is her husband’s humiliation of her in front of their housemaids. As the two servants, both Emily Bridges as the insolent Nancy and Mary Garripoli as the sympathetic Elizabeth give superb performances. Their nuanced demeanor and lower class accents (Cockney and Irish, respectively) are extremely well-played.
Corinne Shor shines as Bella, in a role that calls for wild mood swings and moments of heightened hysteria. It is a tribute to Shor’s acting skills that she can provide so much light and shade in what is obviously a difficult and taxing performance. Bella exquisitely endures her torment as she struggles to keep dementia at bay.
Don Moss’ performance as Inspector Rough suffers a little from what was perhaps a lack of rehearsal, as evident from some noticeable fluffing and stammering of lines. As I gather he was a last-minute replacement in the role, Moss certainly acquits himself well, presenting a warm and compassionate foil to Bella’s cruel husband.
The sound design for this production, created by the play’s director, Charlie Mount, at times beautifully evokes the street sounds of horse’s hooves upon cobblestones and aurally positions the play within its Victorian era. The marvelously creepy music of histrionic strings and deep rumblings, reminiscent of Herrmann’s famous score for Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” also enhances the suspenseful mood.
If you have a penchant for a beautifully restrained and taut melodrama, this classic play, currently being staged at Theatre West, near Universal City, will not disappoint.
Van Nuys News Press
"HELD ME RIVETED TO MY SEAT! Starring as Mrs. Manningham is a very talented Corrine Shor... I was amazed at the performance of John Cygan... Ms. Bridges seems to have inherited the talent of her grandfather (Lloyd), father (Beau) and uncle (Jeff) I congratulate Director and Producer Charlie Mount who deserves a huge bouquet for bring “Gaslight” to Theatre West and the Valley theatre-going public."
Set in London, 1880, “Gaslight” tells the demoniac story of the Manninghams of Angel Street. Under the guise of kindliness, handsome Mr. Manningham is torturing his wife into insanity. He accuses her of petty aberrations that he has arranged himself; and since her mother died of insanity, she is more than half convinced that she, too, is going out of her mind. While her diabolical husband is out of the house, a benign police inspector visits her and ultimately proves to her that her husband is a maniacal criminal suspected of a murder committed fifteen years earlier in the same house, and that he is preparing to dispose of her. Then starts the game of trying to uncover the necessary evidence against Mr. Manningham, a thrilling and exciting melodramatic game.
“Gaslight” premiered in London in 1939. It opened on Broadway in 1941 under the title “Angel Street,” and it became the longest-running non-musical in Broadway history.
Playwright Patrick Hamilton (1904-1962) was also known for his plays “The Duke in Darkness” and “Rope’s End” (made into the film “Rope” by Alfred Hitchcock). Also a well-regarded novelist, he penned “Hangover Square,” “20,000 Streets Under The Sky” and “The Slaves of Solitude.”
Charlie Mount produces and directs the new production. He is the founder of Chestnuts, a wing of Theatre West devoted to the revival of great plays. Previous Chesnuts productions at Theatre West include “Waiting In The Wings,” “Requiem For a Heavyweight,” “Dancing At Lughnasa,” “The Lion In Winter.” The shows have won Ovation and ADA Awards. Charlie also produced the 2007 production of Ray Bradbury’s “Falling Upward.”
Fans of mystery and suspense will relish this new production of “Gaslight,” presented on the 70th Anniversary of its initial run.