By Marlene S. Gaylinn

Ushering in the decay and moodiness of fall, Yale Repertory Theatre opens its theatre season with the World Premiere of “We Have Always Lived In The Castle.” Based on a 1962 modern, gothic novel by Shirley Jackson, and adapted for the stage by Adam Bock, the work illustrates the evil side of humanity in a very disturbing yet tantalizing manner.

This psychological drama is about a wealthy, long established, New England family and its role in an envious, gossiping community.  Like the puzzling intrigue in “Fall River Legend,” which is based on a true New England murder, murder also hangs over this family.  Although the suspect in this family was acquitted, the tragic event isolates this household even further from the outside community.  The most primitive survival instincts eventually penetrate the core of this household and threaten to separate and destroy everyone.   To say anything more would spoil your enjoyment.

I call this a “dramatic musical” because it’s primarily a drama with haunting, musical enhancement created by Todd Almond and includes some dance/staging by Sean Curran.  Dan Lipton conducts a full orchestra that is partially screened in the attic section of this huge mansion’s decaying interior.  The impressive set by David Zinn appropriately features a building foundation that is slightly off kilter – like the family being portrayed. Shadowy lighting by Steven Strawbridge provides the sinister mood while costume designer Ilona Somogyi’s period dresses are right on target.  As a sideline, Ms. Somogyi could make a fortune just selling her 1958 designer aprons – which regrettably are hard to find now.

Central to the production is the intelligent direction of Anne Kauffman and her superb actors.   Alexandra Socha, looking simultaneously like innocent “Alice” and the smiling Cheshire cat, plays the sly-eyed adolescent, “Merricat Blackwood.”  Her beloved sister “Constance” is portrayed in all her human facets, by Jenn Gambatese – a recent Connecticut Critics Circle Award winner.  Shawn Palmer is the slick and handsome cousin “Charles” and animated Bill Buell is the Blackwood patriarch.

“We Have Always Lived in the Castle” will provoke you to reflect on the hidden nature of some people whom you may know – maybe even yourself.  Go see it!

Plays at Yale Repertory Theater through Oct. 9.   Phone:  203-432-1234
This review appears in “On Connecticut Theatre”/October 2010 


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