Haunting thriller is spirited murder mystery

Posted: Thursday, October 28, 2004


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  Pam Fitzgerald, left, played by Margy Lee Harford, scrams at the sight of a ghost while her brother, Roddy, played by Bill Worsfold, and the original owner of the house, Sarah, played by Sarah Shoemaker, look on in fear. Photo by Jenny Neyman

The Fitzgeralds' housekeeper, left, played by Maggie Jane VinZant, and nosy neighbor, played by Tiffany Button, trade gossip about strange happenings at Cliff End.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Anyone thinking about going to the Kenai Performers' production of "The Uninvited" this weekend and next shouldn't let the title scare them away. Though there will be an unwelcome presence at the play, it won't be the audience.

The show, by Tim Kelly adapted from a book by Dorothy McCardle, is aptly billed as a haunting thriller, since the story takes place in a house with an unsavory past and unwelcome spirit.

It is set in 1947 at a house on the coast of Maine. Aspiring playwright Roddy Fitzgerald and his sister, Pam, buy the abandoned manor, Cliff End, as a getaway where Roddy can concentrate on his work away from the distractions of the city.

It soon becomes evident that the house poses distractions of its own. Roddy and Pam begin to hear stories of an accident at the cliff beyond the parlor doors that claimed the life of a former resident or was it a murder?

Sudden unexplainable chills, the sound of disembodied weeping and a mysterious nightlight make the new owners think they are sharing the house with more than just their superstitious housekeeper and her elusive cat.

Director Kim Lee chose the play because the script had so much to offer a good story, characters, dialogue, thrills and, as with any good ghost story, a plot twist at the end. When studying theater, Lee was told a director should choose a script that compels them to the point where they feel like they have to do the show, she said. "The Uninvited" was one of those scripts.

"It's such a good adaptation. ... I love the characters. There's lots of interplay between the characters," she said.

This interplay is what gives the script depth, since it offers opportunities for humor and character development. Even though "The Uninvited" is a ghost story at its core, the script is well-rounded enough that it is about more than just an unsettled spirit that goes bump in the night. Characters like Lizzy, the superstitious housewife, a gossipy neighbor and a humorous country doctor interject levity so the show's tension can build and subside throughout the play.

"The spooky parts are spooky, but there's light and funny parts, too," Lee said.

Lee, who has designed and built sets for past Kenai Performers' productions, said she enjoys the technical aspects of staging a thriller.

"I like all the special effects, adding in all the things that make the ghost parts," she said.


Pam Fitzgerald, left, played by Margy Lee Harford, scrams at the sight of a ghost while her brother, Roddy, played by Bill Worsfold, and the original owner of the house, Sarah, played by Sarah Shoemaker, look on in fear.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Special effects are a helpful tool to build tension and get the audience to jump when they're supposed to, but they aren't enough to carry a show if the story isn't interesting on its own. That's why Lee praises the characters in the script.

"The thing that I hope the actors enjoyed, which I enjoyed the most, are the relationships between the people in the show," she said. "... They have really intriguing interplay."

Roddy and Pam, played by Bill Worsfold and Margy Lee Harford, have a relaxed sibling rapport, which is in stark contrast to the friendly young woman and her stiff, overbearing grandfather, played by Sarah Shoemaker and Ken Duff, who were the former owners of the house.

The housekeeper, played by Maggie Jane VinZant, can't wait for a chance to compare stories with the neighborhood gossip, played by Tiffany Button. The visiting actress and artist house guests, played by Lisa Boulette and Joel Fabiano, give the Fitzgeralds some friendly ribbing. The village doctor, played by Dan Kaasa, contributes humor, while the young owner's former governess, played by Louise Heite, gives some chilling revelations into the house's history.

And then there's the ghost, who's relationship with the house and the rest of the cast is not what it may seem.

"The Uninvited" will be performed Friday, Saturday and Sunday and Nov. 5, 6 and 7 at the Old Town Playhouse in the Old Town Mall in Kenai. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and Sunday performances are at 3 p.m. the show runs about one hour and 45 minutes, and refreshments will be available at intermission. The play is not recommended for children under 8. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $6 for students and seniors and are available at Charlotte's, Coffee Roasters, River City Books and M & M Market.

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