The New York City-based Aquila Theatre Company, which regularly pushes the edge of the theatrical creative envelope, once again dazzled N.C. State University Center Stage patrons Oct. 14th, with its ingenuity in a dynamic 90-minute dramatization of British literary giant H.G. Wells' well-known 1897 science-fiction novel, The Invisible Man, written by Aquila producing artistic director P.W. Meineck and directed by associate artistic director Robert Richmond. This movement-oriented production was suspensefully scored by composer/musical director Anthony Cochrane and aptly costumed by costumier Lillian Rhiger mostly in sepulchral shades, with a colorful dress or two for contrast.
The play unfolded cinematically on a grid marked off on the Stewart Theatre stage, with scenic elements, such as doors, windows, staircases, beds, and tables and chairs rolled or carried on and off at a brisk pace. Meineck and Richmond's spare production design facilitated the series of short, pointed scenes, many of which were brilliantly pantomimed.
Louis Butelli was delightful in the title role of Griffin, a daring scientist whose big experiment in making himself invisible went horribly awry, making him transparent from head to toe and forcing him to swathe himself in bandages lest he frighten all the Victorian women, the horses, and the menfolk, too. His diction on stage and in voiceovers was impeccable, although the bandages understandably muffled his speech somewhat.
Andrew Schwartz was excellent as Griffin's former friend, Dr. Kemp, who took the desperate fugitive scientist in, but was horrified to find that Griffin now survived by robbing and murdering his fellow Englishmen. Lindsay Rae Taylor was a pistol as Mrs. Hall, the nosy publican's wife who became Griffin's landlady; and Lisa Carter made an excellent impression as Teddy Henfrey, the clock repairman whose visit to Griffin's room aroused his suspicions — and confirmed — his greatest fears about Mrs. Hall's mysterious and reclusive boarder.
Andrew Schwartz (again) was good as Dr. Cuss, the tippling physician who tried to examine the ailing Griffin; and Kenn Sabberton was very, very funny as the Rev. Bunting, the hard-drinking vicar who accompanies Dr. Cuss when the good doctor reluctantly visited Griffin's room.
Nick Berg Barnes, Ian Lowe, and Heather Murdock completed the strong supporting cast which made this classic thriller an edge-of-your-seat entertainment.
NCSU Center Stage: http://www.ncsu.edu/arts. Aquila Theatre Company: http://www.aquilatheatre.com/ontourinman.html.