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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

A Gothic Good Time at Book-It Rep's Rebecca

Rebecca
Amy Thone and Annette Toutonghi
Book-It Repertory, which adapts classic as well as lesser-known novels for the stage, strikes Gothic gold with Rachel Atkins' adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca. Fans of the original book, vintage Hitchcock film or popular BBC version should all be well pleased with Book-It's version, directed with flair and spirit (pun intended) by Jane Jones, and a nearly ideal cast.

DuMaurier's tale of a timid, nameless, young bride dealing with the memory of her husband's apparently beloved first wife, as she tries to assume the mantle of mistress of the imposing Manderley estate is not great literature, but it is jolly good Gothic fol-de-rol. Director Jones and adapter Atkins might have tightened up the action a bit in the slow starting first act, but once all the principal characters and relationships are established, the foreboding fun begins. Jones doesn't allow her actors to go campy with this material, or to treat it too solemnly. Jones' clever staging aids Craig Wollam's suggestive, if bare bones, scenic design in creating the illusion of the vast and foreboding Manderley.

As the second Mrs. De Winter, Annette Toutonghi (who had a comic tour-de-force as an amalgamation of several such Gothic heroines in the Empty Space's In Flagrante Gothicto last year) takes the character on an expert journey from mousy outsider to confident mistress of the manor. David Quicksall manages to make his Maxim DeWinter a vital and complex figure, haunted less by Rebecca's memory than by his part in her demise. Amy Thone's Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper of Rebecca's flame, is no two-dimensional, spooky harridan, but a complex character for whom it is easy to muster some sympathy.

Adapter Atkins has chosen to give the deceased title character a physical manifestation in this version. Though having Rebecca present onstage lends a certain uncomfortable Blithe Spirit air to the proceedings at times, Janet Haley gives a commanding and distinctive performance in the role. Haley's striking looks and low husky voice are a particular asset to the act two flashback scenes set on the day Rebecca met her maker.

Notable in supporting roles are Lawrence Hughes, as the warmly likable Frank Crawley, and Dennis Kleinsmith in a trio of characters, most notably Frith, the sage Manderley butler. Less successful is Andrew Litzky, game but miscast as Rebecca's cousin (and sometimes bedmate) Jack Favell, a charmingly callous roué as written, but just an oily little blackmailer in Litzky's interpretation. A half dozen spirited young actresses play both the Manderley domestic staff and some of Rebecca's cozy chums with zeal, and help facilitate the myriad scenic changes as well.

Lighting designers Patti West and Jennifer Yarros capture an effectively melancholy mood, and Ron Erickson's costume designs hit the mark more often than not. Composer Dan Dennis' original music enhances the mood of the tale, and is well played by live musicians Paul Beck and Michaela Pollock.

Rebecca runs through March 26, 2005 at the Center House Theatre, 305 W. Harrison St., in the lower level of the Seattle Center House. For more information visit Book-It online at www.book-it.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David-Edward Hughes



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