Even though Halloween was more than three months ago, Stageworks Northwest still is sending chills down audiences’ spines with its February production of the classic psychological thriller “Angel Street.”
The drama centers on upper-class Victorians Jack Manningham and his wife, Bella. Jack manipulates Bella into thinking she is insane so he can have her committed to an asylum. Their story becomes entangled with that of Detective Inspector Rough, the grizzled police officer attempting to solve a cold case murder the Manninghams might be connected to.
Director Leslie Slape said one of the reasons she chose “Angel Street” as her next production was because of the term “gaslighting,” which is when someone makes their victim doubt themselves in order to gain power. The term arose from the play.
“I was interested in the show because of ‘gaslighting’ being in the news, and I thought, ‘Why not do the show where that term originated?’ ” she said. “Even though they don’t use the word (‘gaslighting’) in this show ... the gaslight (in the show) is a symbol of the husband’s psychological manipulation of his wife.”
Actress Becca Flake, who portrays Bella Manningham, said she could relate to her character’s victimization because she also experienced mental abuse in relationships.
“What really got me ... when I was reading over the script, was (Bella’s) struggle with how her husband was treating her,” she said. “In my own personal life, I’ve been dealing with a lot of the same struggles, so I figured portraying her on stage would be good for me as an actor and personally.”
“It’s been a lot of fun and encouraging. If she can go through all this garbage and make it, so can I,” Flake added.
Peter Curtis, who plays the diabolical Jack Manningham, called the script “...one of the most tightly written plays I’ve ever read.” He said portraying a master manipulator (whom he called “the eponymous gaslighter”) on stage was an interesting experience.
“His understanding of psychology comes into play. He knows how to break (others), and he’s in the process of doing so,” Curtis said of his character. “You get to see him use techniques to break people down and keep them under his thumb.”
Larry Fox, who plays the grizzled Inspector Rough, said he believes the show’s intense atmosphere will please audiences.
“(‘Angel Street’) really has the basis of everything people are looking for in a thriller,” he said. “It’s got murder, it’s got mayhem, it has deceit … and each of the characters have their own interwoven story that brings it together.”
Curtis echoed Fox’s appreciation for “Angel Street,” encouraging anyone who loves drama to see the play.
“The show is bound to make you uncomfortable, but in the best way of the best psychological thrillers.”