The Turn of the Screw

It was just before the twentieth century when Henry James’ novella, The Turn of the Screw, brought a ghost story to his readers. One is, to this day, in a dilemma. Is the story true or a mere figment of a deranged mind?

With a cast of only two, as written by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, the density is only compounded. The first stage adaptation was by William Archibald in 1950. Benjamin Britten created an opera in 1954 and a movie was produced in 1961. In the former productions, the cast was somewhat larger, leading to less ambiguity.

It is suggested that one research the story, getting a sense of the events. The Man (David Biedel) plays a series of roles including women. Listening intently, a must, one cannot be completely sure of just who is his major character. On the other hand, The Woman (Amy Biedel) is quite easily identifiable.

Set in a grey and black set, by Sean Murray, with several sets of stairs, the actors, dressed by costumer Veronica Murphy in grey and black, are mostly static. It is Lighting Director Eric Lotze who provides an almost infinite variety of moods.

Biedel and Tierney create layers of tension through their powerful performances. Even with this, one feels that Hatcher retained so much of James’ words that the play could have been read, rather than acted. Director Janet Hayatshahi relied on the power of these two excellent actors over dramatic staging. One very nice bit was the change of character and mood by Tierney simply by a quick turn away from the audience.

The Turn of the Screw is definitely a piece for the seasoned patron and those willing to refresh their memory and research the novel. The story of a highly disturbed family will haunt you, as it should, as you leave the theatre. The show is running in tandem with Ron Choularton in a solo performance in St. Nicholas, which runs Monday through Wednesday and Saturday matinee.


Amy Biedel, David Tierney

Technical Staff

Scenic Design Sean Murray, Lighting Design Eric Lotze, Costume Design Veronica Murphy, Wigs/Hair Design Peter Herman, Dialect Coach Annie Hinton, Stage Manager Rosalee Barrientos

Total Rating: Two and a half stars

Genre: Ghost story

Author: Jeffrey Hatcher based on a Henry James novella

Director: Janet Hayatshahi

Date Reviewed: October 14, 2007

Dates: Thursday to Sunday, October 13 to November 11, 2007

Running Time: 98 minutes with no intermission

Cygnet Theatre – Independent

6663 El Cajon Blvd, Suite N

San Diego, CA

Box Office Phone: 619 337-1525 Ext 3

Robert Hitchcox is a playwright, critic and fiction author, who reviews live theatre.