Good conquers bad in ‘Angel Street’

  • Bethany Freudenthal / TGIFR!DAY

    During a rehearsal at the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse, Jim Ballentine portrays Mr. Manningham in Kauai Community Players’ “Angel Street,” and looms over his wife, Mrs. Manningham, played by Anne Coyle.

  • Bethany Freudenthal / TGIFR!DAY

    During the Kauai Community Players’ last play of the season, Mr. Manningham, played by Jim Ballentine, attempts to seduce his 19-year-old housekeeper Nancy, played by Erin Gaines.

LIHUE — A Victorian-era setting, with relevance to today’s climate, is how Director Cass Foster describes Kauai Community Players’ last play of the season, “Angel Street,” that opens today.

Based off of one of Broadway’s longest running non-musicals, “Gaslight,” Foster said he chose to direct the play because gas-lighting, using lies and deception to make someone question their sanity, isn’t just a 19th century phenomenon.

“We also see this psychological horror unfold today in sexual assault or harassment. It is especially ugly and vile if assaulted by those we trust, whether sexual, emotional or physical,” Foster said.

Sometimes, he said, theater should go beyond mere entertainment and cause us to take a moment to reflect and maybe influence change,” he said.

“Our story is set in Victorian London, where a handsome, though insidious and Machiavellian Mr. Manningham is using gas-lighting to make his wife believe she is going insane,” Foster said.

The play, he said, takes the audience on many twists and turns, until like all melodramas, it concludes with good overcoming evil.

For Foster, directing the play has been an amazing process.

“I am very fortunate to be collaborating on this sensational play with seven truly fine actors, a handful of superb designers and an exceptionally talented behind-the-scenes crew,” Foster said.

Directing the show came with challenges, because of the period and the setting of the play and losing the lead actor just two weeks before opening night.

“It’s Victorian. My approach to directing is to try to bring the playwright’s vision to life. I’m not interested in saying, ‘he created a great play, but this is how I see it,’” Foster said.

That means he wanted the set to replicate a Victorian home, which was difficult, because the theater company’s flats are eight feet tall.

“Victorian homes are not eight feet tall, but I had two spectacular people to build the scenery. I’ve got a spectacular set designer, she’s at the University of Hawaii. She designed our set and she designed it with 12-foot walls, which isn’t a lot for a Victorian home, but with this space, it looks mammoth,” Foster said. “It’s a pretty impressive room.”

Another challenge they faced during the production is when the original lead actor had to unexpectedly drop out about two weeks before the show.

“It was sad for his situation and for my cast, but we were so fortunate to find Jim Ballentine, (who) is doing the part of Mr. Manningham,” Foster said.

Ballentine, Foster said, is a seasoned professional with years of experience in the entertainment and theater industry.

“We asked him to step in and he didn’t hesitate,” Foster said.

Since losing the lead actor, the cast and crew have spent extra hours every night rehearsing, because no matter what, the show must go on.

“They’re doing this for the sake of the craft, the art, and they’ve all stepped up. They’ve worked many extra hours,” Foster said.

Despite these challenges, Foster said he’s feeling confident about the production and that between the set design, the acting and the costumes, the opening night audiences are in for a special treat.

“We’ve got a great team,” he said.

Show times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. at the Puhi Theatrical Warehouse, and Sundays at 4 p.m. There will be a reception with the cast, crew and director on opening night, today. The play runs through May 27.

For more information about the play, or to purchase tickets, call 245-7700, or visit the KCP website at kauaicommunityplayers.org/angel-street-gaslight/

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Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or bfreudenthal@thegardenisland.com.

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