October 10, 2019 | By Julie Garisto
Unsettling Ambiguity Haunts
freeFall’s Turn of the Screw
Through October 27
Two gifted actors, five 19th century characters and rumors of unwelcome guests make freeFall’s season opener a must-see for the Halloween season
The Florida sun may still be oppressively bright this autumn, but freeFall Theatre invites us into a darker, chillier corner of our imagination by way of the vintage ghost story, Turn of the Screw. Jeffrey Hatcher’s minimalistic take on a Henry James horror story provides theatergoers with an engaging, psychologically-twisted experience that’s sure to get you in the Halloween spirit.
Dupré plays The Governess, and Davis portrays all of the other roles in the Gothic thriller. According to the New York Times, James wrote it hoping for a hit and he includes several of the gothic tropes that were popular in his day. We meet Davis in the first scene as a wealthy, eccentric Londoner who hires a naïve young woman (Dupré) to care for the orphaned niece and nephew in his charge that he has no interest in raising. Flora and Miles live at Bly, their guardian’s remote country estate. The employer instructs his new governess not to contact him about for any advice no matter how dire the situation — a campy, obvious bit of foreshadowing.
Directed by Theatre Tampa Bay Best Director nominee (Buyer & Cellar), Timothy Saunders, The Turn of the Screw lures us in through pitch-perfect performances by Davis and Dupré. Davis goes from playing an eccentric millionaire to a jovial nanny and disturbed young man with fascinating precision and ease. Dupré transcends the superficial stereotype of ingenue to portray a woman who’s dynamic, individualistic and somewhat disturbed.
What’s more, Hatcher’s script adds an intriguing reference to dyslexia that makes the story less dated in its psychology. While 19th century literature often relies on an obsolete binary of madness vs. sanity, this updated take on an old-fashioned ghost story gives us more detailed shades of mental illness. To this end Dupré shows us how traumatic events can alter perceptions… or vice versa. Either could be true, and she’s convincing in either case.
A talkback with the director and cast takes place after
the Friday night performance on October 25. Director and
Resident Dramaturg Timothy Saunders will give a talk on
October 13 & 20 immediately following the performances. Talks are
free and open to all. For ticket information, visit freeFallTheatre.com
or call the box office at 727-498-5205.