October 31, 2014
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Theatre Review
Haunting 'Rebecca' at 2nd Story Theatre
Don Fowler
Jeff Church as Maxim de Winter and Erin Sheehan as Mrs. de Winter in 2nd Story Theatre's production of Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca."

Daphne du Maurier’s haunting 1938 gothic novel was turned into a classic Hitchcock movie starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. The story translates quite well to the stage, with the action taking place in the parlor of Manderley, an old English mansion. Maxim de Winter (Jeff Church) returns to Manderley with his new, much younger, naïve American bride (Erin Sheehan).

There is immediate comparison by the staff and relatives to the late Mrs. De Winter. Her memory is preserved by Mrs. Danvers, an eerie, stern housekeeper (Rae Mancini). There are secrets surrounding the drowning of Rebecca, who is remembered reverently by Mrs. Danvers. Maxim wishes to erase all memories of his first wife, acting violently when her name is brought up.

Something’s not quite right at Manderley. What’s with this creepy Jack Favell (Jonathan Jacobs) who keeps showing up? What is to be made of a boat discovered in offshore waters with holes in its hull and a body down below?

Dark secrets are uncovered and covered up before the dramatic conclusion to this two-hour, two-act production.

The story is a bit dated and the dialogue a bit stilted…but that’s OK. This is a play set in the 1930s, and we get a taste as to how the English conversed, dressed and acted.

The new Mrs. De Winter is a sharp contrast to them. Watching her change from an overly shy, unworldly girl to a take-charge woman is handled beautifully by this fine actress.

The large cast works well together under the direction of Mark Peckham. I must single out Rae Mancini, who gives everyone the shivers whenever she appears from the darkness. Church is also very good, looking like an aristocrat with his fancy clothes, slicked back hair and pencil-thin mustache. Perhaps a little gray in the hair would make him look a bit older than his young bride.

Bravo to veteran costume designer Ron Cesario, who has come up with an elaborate array of costumes, especially one that serves as a high point in the play. Set and lighting director Trevor Elliott has created an incredible effect by using video to portray the crashing waves and later a torrential rainstorm through a large set of windows.

It is fun to look back at times when electronic gadgets weren’t around and the dial telephone was the only means of communication. In one important scene, we discover that doctor/patient privilege was yet to be enforced.

“Rebecca” is a visit to another age that is a sharp contrast to all of the new, slick, frantic plays showing their faces these days. 2nd Story is faithful to the author and the times. As expected, there is not a weak link in the 11-member cast.

“Rebecca” is at 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market St., Warren, through July 29. Tickets are $25, under 21 $20. Call 247-4200 or e-mail boxoffice@2ndstorytheatre.com.


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