When entering the Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester, the first site to be seen is the curtain draped on the stage with a creepy house and ominous tress projected on it, which sets the tone perfectly for the production of the Michigan premiere of The Haunting of Hill House. This dramatic and scary play is done extremely well by the seven-person cast. It is a great show to open the theatre's season and get the audience in the mood for the eeriness of the Halloween season with all its creepy surprises.
While the acting in this show is superb, the fantastic set needs to be brought up first. The play takes place at Hill House, A VERY OLD and supposedly haunted mansion and scenic designer, Kristen Gribben, did a magnificent job creating the main room of the house that the plot takes place in. It is a beautiful and rich mahogany wood room filled with antique furniture and knickknacks that give it a feel of an older house, but not one of a home. The set fits perfectly in the stage and is filled with lots of creative surprises that to talk about how wonderful they are would take away from the show and give away its secrets that need to be seen and read about.
The first character the audience is introduced to is Eleanor Vance played by Robyn Lipnicki Mewha. Her portrayal of Eleanor is honest and innocent. She also has a great stage presence that even when she is not speaking, she is a site to watch. She shows Eleanor’s growth through the play very well. Her Eleanor starts off as a sweet, innocent girl, but as the show progresses, so does her Eleanor. Mewha is great actress who can portray many emotions and works well with the other actors.
One of the actors that Mewha has a great connection with on stage is Leslie Ann Handelman who plays Theodora. The two of them have a wonderful sisterly chemistry and it really shows through on stage. Handelman’s Theodora is strong and vivacious with an addicting personality that she cannot help but to be liked. She has an energy that demands attention on stage and is a joy to watch.
MrS. Dudley played by Ruth Crawford is one of the surprising highlights of the show. She is a fantastic actress who really gives MrS. Dudley a lot of character during her brief moments on stage. She is stoic, strict, and straightforward, which is the perfect mix to make her character stand out and make the audience laugh at her very serious, yet foreshadowing lines.
The rest of the cast play their characters very well. Hugh McGuire makes his character of Dr. Montague smart and witty, yet has comedic moments involving his wife that are very endearing. Judy Dery plays Montague’s wife and is completely over the top in her performance, which is makes it perfectly hilarious. Anthony Guest’s Arthur Parker is very funny with all the nuisances he has created for his character making his Arthur very unique. Percy C. Prouty rounds out the cast as Luke Sanderson and plays him with a boyish charm and happiness that is infectious on stage.
The ensemble cast has been directed very by Travis W. Walter, who is also the company’s artistic director. His direction of the actors using the entire stage makes the show visually appealing to watch. The special effects and moments of music through out the production really enhance the show and were well used at the right moment.
The Haunting of Hill House is a great show to in the spirit for the Halloween season. The cast does an amazing job of bringing it to the life and the beautiful set and special effects make it an overall entertaining, interesting, and mystifying production to watch.
The Haunting of Hill House opened October 6th and run through October 28th at Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester. For more information or tickets, visit www.mbtheatre.com.