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Millbrook Playhouse brings ‘Gaslight’ to cabaret

MILL HALL — Some call it “Angel Street,” while others may call it “Gaslight.”

Regardless of how it is known, Millbrook Playhouse presents the psychological thriller at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday, and July 24-27. The show also has 2:00 p.m. matinees on Sunday, and July 24 and July 28 in the downstairs Cabaret.

The Cabaret’s rich-looking country club Tap Room (from “The Fox On The Fairway”) is replaced with a 1880’s Victorian drawing room as the setting for “Gaslight.”

The Manningham mansion on Angel Street is where Jack constantly belittles and berates his wife, to the extent that Bella believes that she is going mad. The fragile wife fears for her sanity, remembering that her mother died in a mental asylum.

On one of Jack’s frequent nights away, his wife receives an unexpected visit from a retired police detective. The folksy Rough explains to Bella that she is not suffering a nervous breakdown, but that Jack may be more of a terrorist than a tyrant. Rough spins a tale about a murder in the past and some missing jewels that may be tied to Mr. Manningham, who really may be a “criminal maniac.”

Patrick Hamilton’s well-crafted melodrama is part mystery and part thriller. For Millbrook’s Cabaret audiences, whose four-show lineup often includes broad comedies, “Gaslight” is a change-of-pace, with some humorous moments, plenty of shivers and a surprise ending.

Although the audiences’ sympathies quickly favor the self-doubting Bella, the question remains: should she discredit everything that Jack says, and believe everything that Rough tells her?

And if Jack is a demented tormentor, what is his nefarious motive? Does he plan on hooking up with the seductive maid Nancy? Might he gain a huge windfall if he gets his wife committed? Or is there some other evil secret that Jack wants to remain buried?

Having directed last summer’s “Savannah Sipping Society,” Amanda Coffin returns to Millbrook’s director’s chair for “Gaslight.” The show is presented in two acts, with a running time of just under two hours.

“I’m fascinated by the ability to tell this story that was written by a man in the 1880s from a female perspective. For a play that relies on questioning her sanity throughout the course of an evening, it could easily turn into hysteria and tears,” said Coffin.

“The eccentric policeman shows Bella what is real, and for the audience, this is a fascinating and satisfying transformation,” added Coffin. “Our version of the play is about her journey out of the darkness and into the light. It has been so satisfying to find this woman’s strength and make this play about her. Bella is our hero, and we get to watch her triumph!”

With a cast of five, Frank Franconeri plays Inspector Rough. Franconeri, who portrayed Atticus Finch in Millbrook’s “To Kill A Mockingbird,” aptly displays the police detective’s fondness for both digging up the truth and sipping down Irish whisky.

Having been featured in the Cabaret’s previous production of ” The Fox On The Fairway,” Melody Ladd is effective as the distressed and distraught Bella, eventually growing more confident till the melodrama’s surprise finale.

Having directed “The Fox On The Fairway,” Williamsport resident Aaron White makes his Millbrook acting debut, giving a solid performance as the overbearing Jack Manningham.

Completing the cast are the two maids. Megan Ghorashy (“The Fox On The Fairway”) plays the smug and sexy Nancy. Bonnie Farmer, a Mill Hall resident with some professional credits, plays the loyal, understanding Elizabeth.

Rated PG, Millbrook’s production of the Victorian melodrama “Gaslight” promises the audience to be thoroughly entertained, as all the mysteries and sinister secrets in the house on Angel Street are revealed.

For more information, call 570-748-8083 or visit www.millbrookplyhouse.org.

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