Review: “Rebecca” by Carmel Community Players

I didn’t catch the name of the Carmel Community Players board member giving the curtain talk for “Rebecca” at the Carmel Community Playhouse last night, but I love that she acknowledged the presence of her mother-in-law’s Geist Book Club in her welcome message to the audience.  This is such a perfect show for a book group! Or anyone that loves to read.  I have never read Daphne duMaurier’s novel but I loved the feeling of “literature brought to life with respect and pleasure” that this show (also written by her) gave me.

I also loved that this is a gothic drama in the traditional sense. No vampires, no politics, no breaking into song…”just” intrigue and angst and servants, set in an English mansion in 1938.

And no poking fun at the characters behind their backs.  There is humor in this show and the exaggerations of melodrama, but it is not a satire or a spoof.  The characters are honestly themselves, and you laugh and gasp and sigh along with them.

I don’t think the characters and I were the only ones surprised by the ending, either.  Someone near me in the audience murmured, “Ah, a twist!”

The cast, directed by CCP’s artistic director Lori Raffel, includes several beloved volunteer actors giving the strong performances I’ve come to expect from them. If you see a lot of Indy-area community theatre, I bet you will recognize their names, too: Doug Powers is the tormented Maxim deWinter, with Brenna Campbell as his beautiful but befuddled young bride.  Tom McTamney and Barb Weaver are the kind and reliable friend Frank and kind and reliable servant Frith, respectively. Tanya Haas is Maxim’s bossy sister Beatrice, with (new-to-me) Steven Marsh as Major Giles Lacy, her amusingly long-suffering but affable husband. Sexy Earl Campbell is the sexy cad Jack Favell.  And Jim Lucas is the earnestly officious constable, Colonel Julyan, interviewing Dave Eckard as salt-of-the-earth boat-mender/entrepreneur William Tabb.

But Jean Adams as the deliciously warped housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, especially, made me sit up and take notice.  Every time she appeared at the top of those stairs?  Shivers!  Followed by quiet giggles laughing at myself for shivering.

Which reminds me: if you decide to go see one of the final three performances of this show, try to arrive early so that you can sit in the center or house left.  If you sit in the seats at the very far right of the house, I don’t think you will get the full effect of Mrs. Danvers’ unnerving entrances.

Jeff Farley’s costumes are treats, as usual. I was surprised to read in my program that he also designed the set.  I wonder if this was his first gig as a set designer? In any case, he did a good job with that, too. I loved that there was an actual piano on the stage. It contributed to the feeling of a rich mansion even though no one played it.  Set construction was by Jeff Farley and by Charlie Hanover and Bernie Killian.

Director Lori Raffel designed the sound, which included touches of funny-because-just-right instrumental mood music during monologues.  I was surprised and delighted to read in my program that Bryan Fonseca designed the lighting, which was also appropriately emotionally manipulative and included a subtle slash of light across the faces of characters as they revealed – or semi-revealed – something important in their monologues.  Bryan Fonseca is the artistic director of the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis and a professional lighting designer.

“Rebecca” runs through this Sunday, April 29, 2012  at the Carmel Community Playhouse in the Clay Terrace outdoor shopping mall. Please see the Carmel Community Players’ website for more info:

‘See you at the theatres!

Hope Baugh – and @IndyTheatre on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Review: “Rebecca” by Carmel Community Players”

  1. Wonderful to bump into you at the show, Hope. I was familiar with a lot of the talent on stage from previous productions, but this was my first exposure to Brenna Campbell. I loved the subtle touches she brought to the show. Looking forward to seeing her in more productions.

  2. It was a nice surprise for me to bump into you, too, Clay! Break a leg with your final weekend of “12 Angry Men” at the Belfry.

    I think I first “met” Brenna Campbell when she starred in Footlite’s production of “Jane Eyre” a few years ago. I like her work, too.

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