RCP’s GASLIGHT is Chilling and Charming

by Cheryl Thornburg

Reprinted with permission from The Pottstown Mercury/Curtain Call

Julia Minotto, left, Kirk lawrence, and Peggy Orner in GASLIGHT. (Photo credit: Pat Perfect)

There’s plenty of thrills and mystery afoot in Reading Community Players current production, GASLIGHT.

Set in Victorian London, GASLIGHT is the intriguing story of a young woman, Bella Manningham, who believes she maybe going mad, as her mother did before her. Her stern and elusive husband isn’t helping matters – or is he?

Julia Minotto plays the pale and distraught Bella to perfection, evoking sympathy from the audience and Inspector Rough, a detective, who turns up at just the right time to sort out what’s happening in the house on Angel Street (the original title of the play before the classic movie came out in 1944).

Jack Manningham is one of my favorite sinister characters. Corey Donchez plays this husband from Hell with chilling suavity as he toys with his wife’s emotions, then leaves the house every night for hours and soon after he does, the gaslights dim and Bella hears noises in the attic, which has been locked and off limits to everyone in the household. Thus the title of the movie, which gave birth to the term “gaslighting.”

Kirk Lawrence plays the inspector with an exuberance and a charm, that might make you think he’s a con man when he turns up so unexpectedly. As he gains Bella’s trust, the two work together to solve the mysterious goings-on in the household.

Julia Parsons plays Nancy, the saucy and at times, insolent, maid whose flirtations end up being integral to the plot. Parsons has fun with this playful role made famous by Angela Lansbury in the movie.

Corey Donchez and Julia Minotto. (Photo credit: Pat Perfect)

The other servant, Elizabeth, is exactly the opposite, loyal, caring and concerned about her mistress. Peggy Orner plays Elizabeth with a sincerity and believability that makes me wonder if she were a similar person in a former life.

Rounding out the cast are Jaimie Howard and Randy Miler as two stalwart policemen who make the most of their five minutes on stage in the final scene.

Director Bruce McLean chose his cast well and has created a suspense-filled evening (or afternoon) at the theater that is well worth the price of the ticket.

Tickets are a bargain at $15; $10 for seniors, and $8 for students. They are available by calling 610-375-9106 or online at www.ReadingCommunityPlayers.com.

GASLIGHT runs through Sunday Aug. 26. Remaining performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the RCP theater at 403 North 11th St. in Reading. There is a free shuttle to and from the theater from a parking lot on 12th Street between Buttonwood and Elm streets.

by Patrick Hamilton
Directed by Bruce McLean
August 17-26, 2012
Reading Community Players
403 N. 11th Street
Reading, PA

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