A young, sexually repressed governess travels to a lonely English mansion to care for two recently orphaned children. But she is not the first governess to be hired by their absentee bachelor uncle. It seems that her predecessor, Miss Jessel, drowned herself when she became pregnant by the valet Peter Quint, who was himself mysteriously found dead soon after. The new governess learns that Jessel and Quint indulged the darker side of their sexual relationship by acting it out in the presence of the children, and that the experience has left a mark upon her two wards. When she begins to see the specters of Quint and Jessel haunting the children, she must find a way to stop their corrupting influence before it is too late. She determinedly struggles to save their souls from the evil at hand even while questioning how much of it is real and how much is imagined.
At first glance, the tiny black box space of the Pelican Theatre seems barely equipped to present a production of much depth. This misconception is quickly dispelled, however, as The Turn of the Screw uses every inch of the darkly painted set, rich with texture and lit with more purpose and effect than most theatres ten times their size. One can nearly feel the walls closing in around the governess, as she reasons with her anxiety, and the ominous mist rising off of the lake.
Naked Stage gives birth to a production that is small but mighty indeed. The beauty and strength of this performance lies in the talent and clarity of the acting and direction. Matthew Chizever plays multiple roles as a dashing employer, a 10-year-old ward, and an Irish housekeeper. He never misses a beat in his transitions, and is admirably committed to each character, regardless of how different their age, dialect or mannerisms. One would think that having one actor play all these roles would be awkward, but that is not the case with Chizever. He helps propel the tension of the piece forward in a way that helps the audience remain appropriately unsettled.
Katherine Amadeo is hard to take one's eye off as she elegantly disintegrates under the escalating emotional instability of the character of the governess. With pupils wide and pulse throbbing at her neck, she dabs at her face with a handkerchief behind which she attempts to hold her demons (be they real or imagined) at bay. Her desperation is palpable, and her tears timed to make the most of the climax of the story. She is every inch the perfect tragic heroine in this surprising powerful performance by the Naked Stage.
This Naked Stage production of The Turn of the Screw appeared through August 12, 2012 at the Pelican Theatre. The Pelican Theatre is located on the campus of Barry University at 11300 NE 2nd Ave. in Miami Shores. For information on Naked Stage please call 866-811-4111 or visit them online at www.nakedstage.org.