The Turn of the Screw, which opens Oct. 10 at The Players Theater in Richland, is a gothic ghost story packed with suspense, horror and repressed sexuality.
It follows the tale of a young woman who takes over as governess to a pair of orphaned children living in a spooky English manor. But despite the manor’s sinister appearance, there are even stranger events happening.
The play mixes the storyline with narration with the two-person cast playing various roles as well as talking to the audience as if they are telling ghost stories around a campfire, said the show’s producer Ted Miller.
Directing the thriller will be Kiona-Benton High School’s drama director Robert Hanson, who has his own ideas about what’s scary.
“I don’t like the gore and violence of modern horror movies,” he said. “A good ghost story told around a campfire, though, can be truly terrifying. That’s why I wanted to bring this story to the stage.”
Miller couldn’t agree more.
“One of the things I like about The Turn of the Screw is that it leaves the audience wondering whether the ghosts are real or imagined,” he said. “Or, whether the governess just goes mad.”
It’s the kind of play the Richland Players don’t often tackle, said Kelly-Margaret Smith, who portrays the governess.
“This type of show is something audiences haven’t seen from he Richland Players in quite some time,” Smith said. “It’s intriguing, frightening and thought provoking. Perfect for anyone who can’t wait for Halloween.”
Christopher Wilson plays a variety of characters, including the old lady housekeeper and the 10-year-old boy, Miles.
“This is a bone-chilling show,” Wilson said. He adds that the minimal set adds a challenge for the actors to try and paint a mental image for the audience.
“Which is why I love this show so much,” he said. “It’s also what helps to make the show so eerie, the unknown. Scary flicks are always the ones that keep you on the edge of your seat, shoulders tense and fingers flexed. That’s what you get with this show.”
The play, written by Henry James, was originally published in 1898. James went outside the box of stereotypical ghost tales when he wrote his play, opting to forgo the usual gore of horror stories and focus on a more psychological way of frightening the audience, Miller said.
The set also adds to the suspense of of the play, which casts most of the set in darkness. It also features a grand staircase, other Victorian furniture and eerie lighting.
Curtain time is 8 p.m. Oct. 10-11, 17-18 with 2 p.m. matinees Oct. 12 and 19. Tickets cost $15 adults, $12 students, seniors and military and are available at the box office, 610 The Parkway in Richland.