Stage

The Woman in Black at Main Street Theater: A Classic Ghost Story

Danny Hayes as the Actor and Ian Lewis as Arthur Kipps.
Danny Hayes as the Actor and Ian Lewis as Arthur Kipps. Photo by Andrew Ruthven

What better way to sidestep Houston's summer heat, at least for a few hours, by immersing yourself in a the cold and sobering chill that a classic ghost story can deliver.

The Woman in Black, about to open at Main Street Theater is based on a novel by Susan Hill, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt.  The main character is Arthur Kipps who believes his family has been cursed. He has come to believe that anyone who sees the ghostly specter of this Woman in Black will die.

Wanting to be free of his crippling fear, he hires an actor to help him tell his story as a way of expunging his terror. As anyone knows who has ever read, seen or been told a ghost story, things do not necessarily improve from here.

Danny Hayes (The Father at 4th Wall Theatre Co., The School for Scandal at Classical Theatre Company) plays the Actor. It's difficult to describe his character without giving away an essential part of the plot. But it was its convoluted structure — as well as director Philip Hays' passion about the play — that persuaded Hayes to take on the role.

As for Mr. Kipps, Hayes describes him as a man "who's just desperate for help. He's been struggling for many years holding in pain and this tragedy in his life and he's come to a point where he's seeking out help in the last place he thinks he might be able to relieve himself of his pain."

Asked for the genre of the play itself, Hayes says it isn't a horror play in the sense of a slasher film. It's more classic ghost story/horror he says. "It's definitely not a comedy."

Still there may be a few screams during the performance, more because of the play's surprising twists and turns., he said.  there will be moments where people get really surprised by how ... it's really unsettling."

"I’ve never done a show that’s in the spooky summer chills kind of gnre. It was going to be a  really small cast which I haven’t done for a few years now. And Philip Hays the director just had a great enthusiasm about the story and wanted to bring it to Main Street. . Cast members include Callina Anderson and Ian Lewis.

Hayes grew up in Liverpool in the UK and first got interested in acting when he was 12 when his school added it to the curriculum. "I was hooked." He eventually graduated from drama school and met his wife while working in the arts in Liverpool. Houston was her hometown and they eventually ended up here. "I've been very, very lucky that some really exciting companies and professionals  have welcomed me to join their productions."

Why should audiences come see this play?

"I just think this particular one is so well crafted. It’s not just scary for scary’s sake or trying to be scary with silly jump scares.  It's really rooted in a good story. The characters involved are very human. Their troubles and their  problems are very relatable. Their desire for peace is very understandable. I think the fact that it's rooted in such a relatable story that it helps it be a more enjoyable experience. It really has to be earned for it to work. You can’t cut any corners. Everyone's having to do their absolute best. And it’s really smart writing."

Performances are scheduled for July 13 through August 11 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m.at Main Street Theater- Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard. For more information, call 713.524. 6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $39-$59.
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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