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Island Players produce thrilling ‘Woman in Black’

ANNA MARIA – Anyone who regularly attends performances by the Island Players is used to lighthearted comedies that have the audience in hysterics for a great deal of the time they are in their seats.

With performances of “Later Life,” “Farce of Nature,” “The Mousetrap” and “Communicating Doors,” the Players’ historic 75th season has offered plenty of what audiences are used to, until now.

The play that closed the season was definitely not a comedy, and was actually scary at times.

When telling ghost stories, Arthur Kipps’ (Tom Horton) children ask him to tell one of his own. Pushing him by saying, “Everybody knows at least one ghost story,” Kipps knows if he shares the tale he has to offer, it won’t be a story they want to hear, and he has no desire to share it at the time.

What Kipps does decide to do is share his horrific encounter with the supernatural with his friends and family on a theater stage, so he hires a professional actor to help him. While Kipps isn’t much of an actor in the beginning, the Actor (Mark Lennox) convinces him to play all of the characters besides himself in the story, while the Actor plays Kipps.

The play was adapted by Stephen Mattatratt from a novel by Susan Hill and directed by veteran director Kelly Wynn Woodland, who has well over 100 plays under her belt. While it wouldn’t fall under the horror genre, “The Woman in Black” is a fantastic ghost story that takes place in a creepy English manner that is only accessible at low tide due to its remote location just outside a small town, whose residents won’t go anywhere near it. Add in plenty of fog, deadly quicksand, some strange characters and a terrifying ghost (Tahlia Chinault) who manages to make the audience jump despite not having a single line of dialogue in the entire play, the audience was much quieter than at a typical Island Players production.

The show started almost lighthearted, but as it progressed, it became obvious things were turning darker by the minute, eventually leading to an ending that left the entire audience literally speechless. Even as the audience filed out of the final performance, the lobby was much more quiet than the average Players’ play, as guests were still processing what had just happened moments earlier.

There’s still time to catch one of the last shows of the season. “The Woman in Black” runs through May 12 with nightly performances at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Both online and box office ticket sales are available at www.theislandplayers.org and 941-778-5755. Box office hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and one hour before curtain on Sundays for will call tickets only.

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