￼Theatergoers will be transported to another era by the Village Players with the classic mystery/melodrama “Angel Street,” performed at the Upton Avenue Theater beginning January 27.
Originally performed in 1938 under the British title “Gaslight,” “Angel Street” tells the Victorian-era story of a villainous husband who is slowly driving his wife mad in order to suit his own nefarious ends. The show, a staple of theater companies for the past 70 years, has had its popularity wane in recent years, according to Carol Erford, director of the Village Players production.
“Because it’s older it doesn’t get
the play it used to get,” Erford said. “Maybe to jog people’s memories, they haven’t heard of ‘Angel Street,’ they would know it as ‘Gaslight,’ the movie with Ingrid Bergman, or an updated version, ‘Midnight Lace’ with Doris Day.”
Indeed, the show’s most significant legacy may be its contribution to the language: After its initial run, the term “gaslighting” came into common usage, indicating the manipulation of someone to get them to doubt reality.
“The story is universal, the psychological part is that [the villain is] emotionally and mentally abusing his wife to reach an end,” Erford said. “He’s trying to drive her mad, because she’s served her purpose. And we
find that, it’s even more rife today,
that people are mentally abusing, and physically abusing.”
It was the idea that the show’s themes have even more resonance now— combined with a desire to present a fun and entertaining show— that inspired Erford to suggest putting up “Angel Street” at the Village Players.
“I’ve always loved the movie ‘Gaslight,’ it just had a fabulous script. So when the theater asked people to submit what they would like to direct, I suggested ‘Angel Street.’
“I thought, people like mysteries. It’s a good winter show. Mysteries, I think, are fun on those cold days,” Erford said.
Though “Angel Street’s” story and themes remain engaging, the show can be a challenge to modern actors, due to a somewhat old-fashioned writing style and setting. It is a challenge that Erford insists her cast is rising to.
“Because the lines are written more in the Victorian vernacular, sometimes it’s a little harder for them to assimilate, because it’s, ‘My dear husband,’ ‘My dear man’— different phrases that are more Victorian than the modern day. So that poses a little challenge to the actor. But they’re overcoming it.”
In the end, Erford said, she hopes her audience will simply allow themselves to get lost in the show, and in time— to be transported back to an era where crowds loudly responded to
the play and got emotionally wrapped up in its events, even if they knew what was going to happen.
“I want them to have a good time, laugh, if they want to, boo the bad guy or applaud the good guy. Just have a really good time with it. And listen, don’t give anything away!”
January 27-February 5. 8pm, Thursday-Saturday. 2pm, Sunday
$18/general. $16/students and seniors
The Village Players Theater, 2740 Upton Ave.
419-472-6817 | thevillageplayers.org