Classic scary play serves its shivers straight

SPRING HILL

It's creepy and it's kooky, mysterious and spooky.

Indeed, that's kind of why Andrea Gleason has loved directing The Uninvited these past few weeks. It's not your average stage horror story.

For the director who has brought local audiences more standard fare such as A Few Good Men and Same Time Next Year, the chance to bring floating ghosts, flying fireplaces and other supernatural images to Stage West Community Playhouse's Forum stage was just too good to pass up.

"It's been a bit unusual for me, but it's been fun, too," Gleason said this week. "It's a very strong story and one that audiences are familiar with."

The Uninvited is an Irish ghost story written for the stage by Dorothy McArdle during the 1930s. The subject of several films, the haunted house classic has become a favorite with many a high school drama department, especially around Halloween.

Although it's the perfect vehicle for camp, Gleason preferred to play it straight.

"I just felt that it would hold the audience's attention better if we did it that way," she said. "Campy is fun, but after a while you end up wishing that the people on stage would just get on with the story. I wanted to avoid that."

The drama, which involves a brother and sister who buy a haunted house for an unusually low price from its original owner, only to learn later of its tragic past, lends itself to the many special effects used to heighten the tension. The eerie lighting and moving props created by set designer John Masterson were a challenge for Gleason and the actors.

"Special effects can be unpredictable and difficult to work with," she said. "You don't want them to take over the production."

That also may be the reason why Gleason chose two of the theater's standout actors for the leading roles.

Mark Berlinger, who earned a HAMI Award for his portrayal of Jonathan James Kendrice in last season's A Few Good Men, plays Roddy, a London music critic who, along with his sister Pamela (played by Jessica Virginia), embarks on the mysterious encounter with supernatural events.

Although many of the story elements may be predictable, Gleason believes that the production will amaze audiences.

"It's different," she said. "And this time of year it's got an added appeal because everyone loves a good scary story."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

>>If you go

'The Uninvited'

Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., will present The Uninvited over two weekends, Oct. 17-19 and Oct. 24-26, in the Forum Theater, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. Performance times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m each Sunday. Tickets are $10 and are available at the box office, which is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and one hour before show time. Call (352) 683-5113.

Classic scary play serves its shivers straight 10/09/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 9, 2008 5:46pm]

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