Somewhat surprisingly, I had not heard of this classic suspense tale before seeing last night’s first Saturday performance at CCP’s Carmel Community Playhouse. It certainly seems to be a well-known, albeit dated, book, movie and play. First published in 1938, the book by Daphne duMaurier won the National Book Award for favorite novel, was reworked by the author into a play in 1939 – a play which had a very successful run of 340 performances in London in 1940, and was then adapted into a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock which won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1940. What with all this popularity in it’s history, I felt somehow at a loss as to how both Mrs K and I were so unfamiliar with it until one of the actors who played a large role in the show told me he had never heard of it either.

But enough about my many shortcomings regarding this triple-threat of a story; by contrast the production had very few. Smartly directed by multiple Encore winner Lori Raffel, on a grand scale set with beautiful period costumes – both designed by Jeff Farley, and with an perfect assemblage of veteran actors and actresses playing the melo-dramatic roles, CCP’s early spring offering was dynamic, engaging and quite nearly perfect.

With Doug Powers giving a masterful portrayal as the quietly powerful Maxim deWinter, and Brenna Campbell, spectacular as the very shy and out of her realm young Mrs. deWinter, the cast is thus led by two local actors who I have always felt add so much to any production they are in and whom here set the high talent bench mark which the rest of the fine cast reaches for and conveys.

Jean Adams is commanding and frightening as Mrs Danver, the faithful servant to Rebecca deWinter, Maxim’s mysteriously deceased first wife. Tom McTamney turns in a solid and spot-on characterization as Maxim’s assistant Frank Crawley. Tanya Haas sparkles and amuses as Maxim’s sister Beatrice Lacy and her husband, expressively played by Steven Marsh, is comic relief throughout. Jack Favell, rakishly modeled by the brilliant Earl Campbell as a villianous and sassy cousin to Rebecca, is a highlight in the play and is worth the price of admission.

Barb Weaver as efficient housemaid Frith, Jim Lucas as the inquisitive Colonel Julyan, and Dave Eckart as boatsman William Tabb, all do wonderful stage work and add to the even flow of the story.

Let’s face it – to do a drama is hard, a comedy is even more difficult and a melodrama really tests all whom are involved. The winding storyline – especially for one unfamiliar with the tale – the plot twists, and the complicated resolution were a challenge to glean entirely, so I am sure I missed some of what was going on. But to this company’s great credit, at the end I wound up knowing: who was good, who was not and what exactly had happened to the mysterious Rebecca deWinter.

Very few things distracted my attention in this production – a great compliment given the way I go about critically watching a show. I do wish there had been a bannister on the grand staircase. Mrs. Danver required some awkward cane useage so that the stairs were less treacherous for her downward climbs. That was one of only two distractions. The other was a special light sequence during some dramatic (or more correctly, melodramatic) highpoints, where the lights dimmed, an actor moved (without real purpose, I thought) to a spot onstage, and a special, thin, horizontal light appeared across their chin or throat. Granted the actors may have missed their “mark” on the stage, but this was repeated 3 or 4 times and always looked that exact same way. I was left wondering what effect the production was after, and just that brief sideward thought caused me to lose the thread of the story for a moment and miss what was being said. It just plainly did not work for me.

Regardless of those two small items, the play is a great way to spend two hours and luckily it continues next Thursday, Friday and Saturday 4/26-28 at 8pm and next Sunday 4/29 at 2:30. Go to www.carmelplayers.org for more reservation information and get in to see this wonderful show.

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