Realities clash amidst gaslights, deceit
It appears it is shame Mrs. Manningham -- Leading female character in the Acrosstown Repertory's Theatre production of Angel Street (Gaslight) -- couldn't voice her angst regarding the perplexities of her troubled marriage to a local chapter of battered, abused women, or the ME TOO movement.
Bella, (Anne Rupp, image right) , the turn of the century wife in a proper marriage, with a well respected, statesman like husband Mr. Manningham (Justin Clement, image right) was thinking she was going crazy:
Was she? All the puzzling examples were right in front of her.
What happened to that letter her husband asked about.
How can she be so forgetful as to misplace something important like that special note from her sister.
Why can't she remember moving that picture off the wall. . .
ART Director Laura Jackson and the Acrosstown Repertory Design Team/Tech Crew have done an excellent job of sending the viewer back in time as if they were watching a POblic TV Masterpiece Theater's Old English driven soap operas. You know the ones GLOBers with ruling class struggles, privileges, authority, along with obedient servants Nancy (Ashlyn Brooke), and Elizabeth (Jan Cohen). The PBS stories were great in that the plot always surprised you with an underlying message of skewed relationships, awkward co-existence, and peculiar personality traits always in the staid, straight laced, exceedingly uptight English ruling class characters.
Playwright Patrick Hamilton has compiled all of those qualities in this production of Angel Street (Gaslight).
The story opens with what looks like an ordinary 1900's married couple discussing upcoming plans. Quickly you see the dapper Jack Manningham manipulating, mentally torturing his wife, Bella, under the guise of kindness. Bella slowly begins believing Jack's suggestions that perhaps 'she is not right mentally,' and should see a doctor.
Bella is visited by a Scotland Yard inspector, Rough (Shamrock McShane) who insinuates to Bella that her husband could be the maniacal criminal wanted for a murder committed 15-years-ago in the Manningham's home. Bella slowly gains confidence in herself seeing the puzzle pieces of her mental anxiety falling into place, resolving common sense explanations as she and the inspector piece together clues of Mr. Manningham's past life.
Interestingly enough the term "Gaslighting" is an actual term defining, "a form of psychological abuse in which false information is provided to the victim with the purpose of making her doubt her own sanity and perception." Think about that as the ART stage's Gaslights dim. Or glow in the play.
Now, about Bella Manningham. fraught with anxiety, worried about her mental state, desperate to please her husband, the woman is a psychological mess of the first order. Much applause to Anne Rupp for creating a character that pulled on my heart strings in one breath, and had me wanting to grab her by her shoulders with a shake and a 'Get grip on it woman' in the other breath. Kudos to Ms, Rupp for acting out one of the better, complex character tage performances I have seen in some time.
Much Applause and many thanks to this stellar cast of actors for transporting the audience, literally, to another time, place, and several realities. Pictured above from left: Jan Cohen, Ashlyn Brooke, Justin Clement, Anne Rupp, and Chuck Lipsig.
Regarding emotional movements.
Circuitous, synchronistic, right here – right now. You think it is coincidental I wanted to make a statement here about how the ME TOO movement? Battered and emotionally scarred wives can take solace in the fact they are changes are happening. This is not the turn of the century. Hopefully, societies disregard for a person's psychological being is a a completely differernt level and progressively changing Today I feel I must include the aberration and destruction of – as Morning Joe's TV host Scarborough describes 'the dysfunctional slaughtering of our children' -- what should be exclusively safe places of learning.
As I wrote in a piece of fiction about relationships, co-existence several years ago "It boils down to the fact we are all really just animals, deranged or otherwise, our animal instincts will win out every time."
Special thanks to the Gainesville Downtown website for sharing their Gaslight images. The Acrosstown Repertory Theatre's production Angel Street (Gaslight) enters its final weekend of performances and you may FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information.