The Haunting of Hill House/Pasture Prime Players/Massachusetts...

”Haunting of Hill House” - Pasture Prime Players - REVIEW

Pasture Prime Players presents gloomy ”Haunting of Hill House”

By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMag Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

CHARLTON: Pasture Prime Players present “Haunting of Hill House” a play in two acts by F. Andrew Leslie. 4 Dresser Hill Road, Charlton, MA. 01507. Performances: Oct. 25 & 26, Nov. 1 & 2 at 7:30pm Oct. 27 & Nov. 3 at 2:00pm. Ticket Prices $15 per adult, $12 students and seniors. For tickets or group discount information, contact the box office at 508-248-5448 or via email at

Written by F. Andrew Leslie from the Novel by Shirley Jackson. Directed by Directed by Don Konopacki.

Cast Includes:  Hadley Crane, Carol Sweny, Prreeti Tiwari, Jeff Van Amburgh, Jared L. Carlson, Robyn Spain, Bernard Galvin.

If gloomy mysteries are your pleasure, then the Pasture Prime Players might help you ring in the Halloween ‘spirit’ with their latest offering, “The Haunting of Hill House.”

The disturbing drama is an adaptation by F. Andrew Leslie of the 1959 novel by Shirley Jackson.

Suspense and terror build, ever so slowly, as several psychics find themselves trapped inside the Victorian manor known as “Hill House” which has a long, dark and foreboding history.

Hill House is all but abandoned save for some necessitated upkeep by its malevolent caretaker, Mrs. Dudley (Carol Sweny).

The montage space set design is adorned as a windowless parlor, with spooky old pictures reminiscent of those found at the Haunted Mansion at Disney theme park. Except these aren’t equipped to do tricks like stretch or speak. They don’t need to. Their ghoulish appearance is quite enough.

Victorian style furniture is placed around the stage situated in the limited space. Yet there is definitely a feel of abandonment in its appearance.

There is an elegantly adorned bed stage right which has the same abandoned look. There is a chess board center stage which becomes more symbolic as the evening progresses. A small bar and desk are set along the back wall. Overall, a very effective use of space by director Don Konopacki.

Over the course of a week in summer, Dr. Montague (Jeff Van Amburgh), an investigator of the paranormal, is allowed on site by the present and mysterious owner of the mansion.

He is challenged with exposing and exorcising the supernatural forces which have left Hill House all but abandoned.

Van Amburgh appeared quite comfortable in the role, but struggled with some of his character’s long speeches.

Montague is joined by three others: Eleanor (Hadley Crane) a young sensitive with whom whatever spirit is emanating from the house has affixed its attentions. Also present is vivacious clairvoyant Theodora (Prreeti Tiwari) who bonds with Eleanor as the two find they have much in common.

Rounding out the trio is Luke Sanderson (Jared L. Carlson) a nephew in charge of keeping an eye on the doctor and his companions.

Carlson was fine as the character of Luke but occasionally spoke too fast to be understood. When he slowed down he was far better understood and, as a result, actually had some of the funniest moments on stage.

Later, after a series of paranormal events, the group is joined by Montague’s wife (Robyn Spain) and her “driving companion” to the mansion, Arthur (Bernard Galvin). There is no chemistry between Spain and Van Amburgh so, unfortunately, many of their scenes fell flat as a result.

Also with a number of comical moments was Spain as Mrs. Montague and who is, by far, one of the most eccentric of characters in the show.

Galvan was fine but appeared miscast in the role of Mrs. Montague’s “friend” Arthur, who is supposed to be a conservative head schoolmaster and , instead, came across as an over-anxious Ghostbuster.

Most of the suspense is built around the psychological, not supernatural. Mrs. Dudley cautions that, being so far away from town, no one will hear you if you scream.” After hearing that, why, in God’s name, would any of these people stay in Hill House?

Yet, stay they do, and when anomalous events do take place, they all seem to take it with the same level of acceptance.

While supposedly set in the 1950s, the dialogue comes across as extremely anachronistic considering how the cast behave and are costumed. There was no rhyme or reason to the wardrobe to provide some sense of consistency to the time period.

There are also far too many conversational moments in Leslie’s script which are forgettable and add nothing to the plot. The show was written as a three act but is presented here as a two and a half hour two act. Thankfully, scene changes flowed quickly and seamlessly.

At times, a few of the actors seemed under-rehearsed as there were varying degrees of line trouble.

The main reason to see the show is for Crane and Tiwari who, not only had a good handle on their individual characters, had a great relationship onstage together.

Crane, especially, gave an elevated performance providing Eleanor with an understated persona which added to her portrayal of Eleanor as more pensive than brooding, making her, as a sensitive, far more in tune and susceptible to the eerie events of whoever, or whatever, is pulling the strings in Hill House.

Eleanor becomes like one of the pawns from the chess set. But who, or what, is moving her from square to square, room to room, inside Hill House and what ultimately comes at the point of “checkmate”?

Various effects, specialized lighting and sound, were successfully utilized to provide the spooky effects, but came too few and far between.

The show runs two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)

Body Awareness/Windham Theatre Guild/Connecticut...

Windham Hill Theatre Guild presents complex comedy “Body Awareness” By Kevin T. Baldwin

# 774-242-6724

Written by Annie Baker. Directed by Ava Rose Molnar.
CAST INCLUDES: Preeti Tiwari, Dale Magnuson, Cody Motivans, Mark Fitton.

Multiple complex and thought-provoking elements are presented in the two-act play “Body awareness,” presented by Fractured Theatre at Windham Hill Theatre Guild.

Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker, the play marked her Off-Broadway debut.

Set at the modern day but fictitious Shirley State College in Vermont, the comedy begins with Phyllis (Preeti Tiwari), a professor of psychology, writing on a chalkboard center stage proudly proclaiming a campus-wide “Body Awareness Week.”

Phyllis is super-organized and has the entire week’s event perfectly mapped out. Yet, as each day passes, and is marked on the chalkboard, Phyllis’s perfectly organized week concludes in utter chaos.

Phyllis lives with her lesbian life partner Joyce (Dale Magnuson ) who is a high school social studies teacher. Also in the household is Joyce's 21-year-old son, Jared (Cody Motivans), from Joyce’s prior marriage.

Tiwari is exceptional as resilient staunch feminist Phyllis who, while otherwise shows herself to be strong-willed and determined, when it comes to the love of her life, Joyce, her resilience is sorely tested.

Motivans gives a quite methodically layered performance as Jared who shows signs of Asperger's syndrome, which he refuses to either acknowledge or seek treatment.

Frank (Mark Fitton), is an aging professional photographer, who specializes in artistic photos of nude women which offends Phyllis. Frank is staying with Phyllis and Joyce for the week and immediately irritates Phyllis and heightens the tension between everybody in the house.

WILLIMANTIC, CT: Fractured Theatre at Windham Hill Theatre Guild presents “Body Awareness” by Annie Baker. Performances at the Burton Leavitt Theatre, 779 Main Street, Willimantic, CT 06226. Feb 28, March 1, 2, at 7:30pm, and March 2 at 2:00pm. Ticket prices $19.00 per Adult, $16.00 per Senior (60+) and Student, $12.00 per Child, $14.00 per ECSU/QVCC/UCONN Student. Bulk Tickets $15.00. For tickets and reservations contact (860) 423-2245 or email

Fitton is extremely at ease with the character of Frank and riffs well off the other actors on stage, but none moreso than Motivans as Jared in one of the best scenes in the show.

Magnuson also impresses as Joyce, who agrees to pose nude for Frank, despite Phyllis’s intense objections.

While all of Baker’s characters are clearly defined, under the superb direction of Ava Rose Molnar, and with Frank’s character used as a catalyst, we discover their respective various vulnerabilities which show their humanity and culminate in the show’s touching conclusion.

The show runs 90 minutes with one intermission. Three and a half stars.

The Maltese Falcon/Pasture Prime Players/Massachusetts...

Pasture Prime Players pays homage to film noir with 'Maltese Falcon' 11/8/18, 12'34 PM

Entertainment & Life

Pasture Prime Players pays homage to film noir with ‘Maltese Falcon’

By Kevin T. Baldwin, Telegram & Gazette Reviewer

Posted Oct 27, 2018 at 11:19 AM Updated Oct 31, 2018 at 1:26 PM

CHARLTON — Pasture Prime Players present a fascinating stage adaptation of the film “The Maltese Falcon,” regarded by many to have set the bar for most pulp-style detective stories that have come since.

In this homage to the noir classic, adapted for the stage by Helen Borgers, after the partner of iconic gumshoe Sam Spade (Michael Kaitbenski) is killed, he gets “more than he bargained for” as he works to solve his biggest case.

Kaitbenski, virtually in every scene, does a commendable job and does not try to do a Humphrey Bogart impersonation. However, it is hard to ignore the legendary actor’s influence, which made the character of Sam Spade renowned.

Unfortunately, this unintentionally causes an imbalance in the performance, as sometimes the Spade dialogue comes out muttered and sped up. From the outset, he is almost unintelligible, although there are some moments, primarily in Act 2, when his performance comes across much more at ease.

Sam is lured by sultry schemer Bridgid O’Shaughnessy (Sonya Richards) into a world of ruthless smugglers and thieves all after a priceless Maltese falcon. Richards has a strong presence on stage, much like that of a young Katherine Hepburn. She seems to have an easier time with Borger’s dialogue, helping to make any scenes between her and Kaitbenski more engaging, although their final scene together at the end of the show runs on far too long.

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Pasture Prime Players pays homage to film noir with 'Maltese Falcon' 11/8/18, 12'34 PM

O’Shaughnessy is somehow involved in the death of Spade’s business partner Miles Archer (Sean Gardell), who is killed while trying to find a man named Thursby. Thursby also winds up dead, with Sam as a prime suspect. Sam does all he can to clear his name and solve the murders.

Not until Act 2 do we meet suave, sophisticated archvillain Casper Gutman (Eric Hart), who uses money and guile to manipulate Sam into leading him to the precious statue. Spade also encounters the morally bankrupt Joel Cairo (Joe Sawyer) and Gutman’s cold-blooded killer henchman, Wilmer Cook (Christopher Crockett-Sears).

Hart, especially, elevates the show, providing a masterful interpretation of both the Borger and Hammett text. His scenes with Kaitbenski play out as if Gutman and Spade are two worldly chess masters at work. A contest of champions and the prize is the Maltese falcon.

Spade’s secretary Effie (Rose Gage) helps Sam deal not only with O’Shaughnessy but also with the widow of Sam’s late partner, Iva (Preeti Tiwari). Gage does an admirable job as Effie, who provides the only moral stability Sam can depend on in his life after having his own morality put into question.

On far too briefly, Tiwari provides some delightful moments of comic relief as the insecure, not- so-grieving widow who is head-over-heels in love with Sam.

The stage is kept basic and compact due to limited space, but the cast works proficiently, maneuvering around the restricted surroundings and were aided by effective isolated lighting.

There is a phone booth, a desk with an old swivel chair (a very loudly moving old swivel chair), a fireplace on an elevated second level, and a living area, all within approximately 15 feet of stage space. The set is surrounded by drab, grey painted walls, perfectly reminiscent of the black-and- white film classic. All the cast is garbed similarly, an appropriate nod to the mood of the 1941 film directed by John Huston.

Borger’s adaptations uses some dialogue that was not in the movie. Also added is some “R-rated” language, which may take some by surprise.

The bigger concern with the adaptation is that Borger’s script doesn’t always seem to allow for enough interpretation by the actors. Page 2 of 3

Pasture Prime Players pays homage to film noir with 'Maltese Falcon' 11/8/18, 12'34 PM

In trying to faithfully adapt the story to provide the audience with the same level of excitement as when original audiences saw the film, some of the dialogue is interpreted by the actors differently, causing them to lose all sense of rhythm.

The cadence of a film noir like “Maltese Falcon” does not translate well to the stage. While one actor tries to speak quickly to mimic the pacing sometimes found in older movies, other actors try to counter with a more naturally paced dialect, thus upsetting the overall balance of the piece.

Another issue arises in the blocking, because certain action sequences that may have worked on film look absolutely comical on stage, especially applying to any staged fight scenes between Sam and some of the other male characters. Otherwise, the show’s direction under Don Konpacki was solid.

Although the second act spends far too much time wrapping up plot points, the main characters all get to shine a little more, providing some of most interesting moments in the show. Page 3 of 3

The Chronicle...


Prreeti Tiwari,
Nov 18, 2019, 9:48 AM
Prreeti Tiwari,
Nov 18, 2019, 9:47 AM
Prreeti Tiwari,
Nov 18, 2019, 9:47 AM
Prreeti Tiwari,
Nov 18, 2019, 9:47 AM