While the Guild House has been the scene of many a business lunch, bridge game, fashion show and shower, it's never been host to a tale of psychological terror. That is until this weekend, with the presentation of "The Turn of the Screw."
This play by Jeffrey Hatcher, which adapts Henry James' 1898 novella into a two-person tale of suspicion and the supernatural, was on the list for director Jarred Clowes.
"I've been a fan of Jeffrey Hatcher for a long time," he said. "I've done a few of his shows now."
"Turn" is the latest for Theatre in the Black, the theater company Clowes started earlier this year. Beginning with "The Firebugs," staged at The Idea Hive downtown, Clowes has set out to produce plays that meet a different need in the community and aren't encumbered by location.
"With Theatre in the Black, we’re not captive to any sort of profit structure. It's small shows for small audiences."
In the show, Carolyn Fox plays a governess who has been hired by a wealthy bachelor to care for his niece and nephew on his country estate. The innocent woman's mental well-being is challenged as she contends with one mute child, another expelled from boarding school for “unspeakable” acts and what may be a ghostly couple.
Maddern plays a variety of roles, including the uncle, young charge Miles, tight-lipped housekeeper Mrs. Grose and the narrator.
Clowes said the key to one actor pulling off so many roles lies in clean transitions.
"We’re willing to disconnect quite a bit from reality (as an audience)," he said. "Posture change and change in voice, and instantly we’ve bought into it. ... The challenge is making sure that you do them very specifically that it’s obvious there is a change."
It helps that the audience will only be a few feet from the performers, who will act in a space in front of the fireplace in the Guild House's first-floor dining area.
"It’s fun to stage a show where the actors never leave the stage," Clowes said. "To do that in front of any audience that is three feet away is great."
In addition to the playwright, Clowes' decision to put on the show was determined by the finding the right venue. One of his "Firebugs" actors, Patrick Plugge, volunteers at the restaurant along with his wife and alerted Clowes to the possibility.
Clowes said, "In addition to the right actors and the right show, is there a cool place to do this? I'm eager to give audiences new experiences. As much unlike TV as possible."
Utilizing this unconventional theatrical space has an added perk. Guild House cooks will prepare a sweet and savory plate for guests, who can also have a glass of wine before the show. Clowes said the selections will vary each week based on what the kitchen has been preparing for its weekday lunches.
A portion of ticket sales will go to benefit the Henrietta Weill Memorial Child Guidance Clinic & Adult Behavioral Health, which the volunteer-run restaurant also benefits with its lunch service and fundraisers.