Review: Hudson Reed Ensemble’s ‘The Turn of the Screw

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Sarah Stevens and Jeremy Martin in Hudson Reed Ensemble's production of "The Turn of the Screw."
Courtesy photo |

If You Go…

What: ‘The Turn of the Screw,’ presented by Hudson Reed Ensemble

Where: Black Box Theatre

When: Friday and Saturday, 30 & 31, 7 p.m.

How much: $25; $15/students


More info: Not recommended for children under 12.

The Hudson Reed Ensemble has put together a subtle, creepy production of Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw,” which opened Oct. 23 and runs appropriately through this Halloween weekend.

The company’s normally bare-bones aesthetic gets an upgrade in pitch-perfect lighting and sound cues, and a potent use of translucent sheets to bring a spooky estate on the English moors to life.

It opens to ominous piano notes, a pair of children playing and a man and a woman posed in separate scenes behind those sheets.

The children, we soon learn, are Miles (Jeremy Martin) and Flora (Paige Northrup). The man is their uncle (Andy Henderson), who is delegating their care to an overeager governess (Sarah Stevens).

“You are not to trouble me,” he warns as he gives the governess her pay and her assignment. “Never.”

Soon after she makes it to the estate at Bly, that proves troublesome, as she begins to see spirit visitors out of the windows and at the lake. She confides in Bly’s cockney-accented housekeeper (Morgan Walsh) who slowly fills her in on some of the estate’s troubled past.

The ghosts, appearing in eerie silence behind the sheets, may be the main attraction in the production, but the play’s slow-burn horror depends on the children’s performances. Martin and Northrup, both making their professional debuts, are fantastic in their chilling roles. Northrup infuses her childlike innocence with a sinister air while playing with her weird dolls or singing by the lake. Martin’s menacing and smug grins as he teases the governess and recites William Blake poems are spine-tingling.

Stevens, as the haunted governess, is the audience surrogate onstage. As the spirits haunt her, she goes from frazzled to frightened to completely freaking out — as audiences will at the Black Box Theatre this weekend.