Picketwire Players

Description: The Haunting of Hill House Oct. 27-29


Published: 09/06/2022
Byline: SecoNews

Back Row: Jessica Rebel, Jake Pruyn, Callie Brinley, Caitlyn Dieckmann, Cynthia Fazio, Brandon Bass, Erik Woodall. Front Row: Heather Pidcock-Reed, Molly Borton, Katie Lagergren, Katie Merewether, Kaydence Lagergren, Sebastian Deane.

Picketwire’s Fall Frightener Playing Now

By Susy Sarlo

Just in time for Halloween, veteran director Heather Pidcock-Reed has brought “The Haunting of Hill House” to the Picketwire stage. Based on the 1959 novel by Shirley Jackson, F. Andrew Leslie’s stage adaptation will not disappoint those who want to be frightened – especially at this time of year.

The play takes place in the remote Hill House – which has remained empty due to its reputation for being sinister and forbidding. The audience is first introduced to Mrs. Dudley the caretaker – the only person who visits the house daily. She quickly tells all that she “will not stay after dark”. Mrs. Dudley is played in vintage horror film, stereo- typical fashion by Caitlyn Dieckmann. Her monotone and imposing presence sets the mood for the entrance of additional visitors.

This long empty house soon attracts the attention of an investigator of supernatural phenomena, Dr. Montague, who is granted a short lease to delve into the morbid history of the house and discern its occult forces. Brandon Bass plays Montague with a touch of old-time professor – a little stuffy, but caring for his students.

Others are soon added to the ensemble, at Dr. Montague’s request, to explore the house. Interestingly, they all have varied reasons for exploring this house of strange and eerie occurrences. Fears mount as they seek communication with departed spirits, resulting in increased terror as spirits are continued to be summoned and evil grows.

The actors as well as the audience will react to doors closing by themselves, strange lights appearing and disappearing, and sounds blasting that chill everyone’s spines.

The rest of the characters in this ensemble cast are played to perfection. Molly Borton as Theodora brings sophisticated fashion and a sense of confidence needed to help the audience believe we will not all be frightened to death. Ms. Borton’s stage presence is flawless and the nuances of her performance between terror, humor, caring for her fellow house mates, and back to a little cockiness is the mark of a true professional.

Long-time Picketwire Player, Katie Lagergren has the difficult task of embodying Eleanor Vance – the most emotionally fragile of all characters. It would be difficult to speak about the layers of emotion without giving the story away. Suffice it to say, that we are all psychologically exhausted watching the transitions of her hysteria.

First time actor to the Picketwire stage is Jake Pruyn. He is a natural as he embodies his character, Luke Sanderson, with ease and delight. He fits well with the rest of the ensemble.

The appearance of Mrs. Montague after intermission is a fun distraction. Katie Merewether makes Mrs. Montague officious while still managing to depict a neglected wife who just wants her husband to listen to her ideas. Her sidekick, Arthur, is played by Erik Woodall. Mr. Woodall strikes a Cary Grant-like pose and looks good on stage. It is unfortunate we cannot understand a word of his dialog.

While the cast was wonderful, the real stars of the show might just be the technical side of the production. From the moment the audience walks into the theatre, the set design (by Ms. Pidcock-Reed and Thomas Seaba) transforms everyone to a different time, a different place, and definitely a different mood. The sound and light effects (Thomas Seaba and Addison Durboraw) do their job in unnerving the audience.

Costumes (Kaydence Lagergren) and hair/makeup (Callie Brinley) continued the transformation of each character back to the 1950s and into a frightful house. Also of note, was first time Assistant Director, Jessica Rebel.

“The Haunting of Hill House” does not disappoint and will be just what is needed to start the Halloween season. Each scene, each technical interaction is directed for maximum effect. The story of the house unravels as slowly and viciously as the nerves of each character start to unravel. According to Director Pidcock-Reed, author Shirley Jackson’s opening lines in the novel send a warning: “Hill House…stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within…” And dark and frightening it definitely is. Perhaps no one should watch this play alone.

The Picketwire Players production of “The Haunting of Hill House” runs from Thursday, October 27 through Saturday, October 29 at the Picketwire Center for Visual and Performing Arts (802 San Juan Avenue, La Junta, CO). This 54 year-old community, theatre company is selling tickets for “The Haunting of Hill House” at the theatre box office or you may purchase tickets online at www.picketwireplayers.org. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Purchase Your Tickets Here!

Follow SECO News on Facebook.

Subscribe to the SECO News YouTube Channel.

The Picketwire Center for Performing and Visual Arts is Located at 802 San Juan Ave. in La Junta, Colorado.