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‘The Turn of the Screw:’ All very real, or at least imaginative in the appearance thereof

On Friday, Oct. 14, the Thingamajig Theatre Company presents “The Turn of the Screw,” by Jeffery Hatcher, adapted from the Henry James novella.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a special Champagne Opening and decadent hors d’oeuvres followed by the performance and actor talk-back.

“The Turn of the Screw” is a unique opportunity to witness a play wrought with multiple themes, motifs and symbols. Due to the story’s ambiguous content, it became a favorite text of academics who subscribe to “New Criticism.”

As the story goes, a new governess in a lonely English manor house begins to see specters of her predecessors haunting the two orphan children she cares for, and she must stop the fiends before it’s too late.

But, the question remains: Are these ghostly apparitions real or a product of her fevered imagination?

Among the major themes in the play are the corruption of the innocent, the destructiveness of heroism and the pervasiveness of forbidden subjects.

One of the most challenging features of “The Turn of the Screw” is how frequently the characters make indirect hints or use vague language rather than communicate directly and clearly.

Among the motifs that move that play along are vision, silence and the manor of Bly as “a ship at sea.” Throughout “The Turn of the Screw,” references to eyes and vision emphasize the idea that sight is unreliable. At times, the governess regards the clarity of the children’s eyes as proof that the children are innocent. In these cases, she determines whether the children are capable of deception by looking at their eyes, when it may be her own eyes that deceive her. Sound acts as a signal of life and nature in “The Turn of the Screw,” and its absence is a predictor of the governess’s supernatural visions. She interprets the “dead silence” of the incident as proof that the encounter is unnatural. Early on in the play, the governess imagines herself at the helm of a “great drifting ship,” and the metaphor of Bly as a ship lost at sea soon proves to be appropriate. As the play progresses, it becomes apparent that her navigation skills have failed her, and she envisions the children drowning.

Symbolism throughout the play is brought to life through stagecraft and the author’s use of the Governess’ soliloquy.

Light and the written word are pervasive throughout. Candlelight suggests safety in the governess’s narrative, while twilight suggests danger. On a number of occasions, the governess’ lighted candle is extinguished, always with the implication that something is awry. The lack of moonlight implies an absence of the supernatural, and the blowing out of the candle indicates a loss of protection. Written word symbolizes how the characters interpret what is real.

In “The Turn of the Screw,” events become fully real only when they have been written down. The journal the Governess keeps allows her to present events in a way that will persuade her readers she is both sane and telling the truth. The journal is interrupted, which impedes our ability to determine whether the events are or are not “real.” Her journal stops short of a definite conclusion. These interruptions suggest the story remains unresolved — and cast doubt on its reliability.

The Thingamajig Theatre Company invites you to join them as they present this classic tale of terror, horror and death — a true storyteller’s play that will make you think till you’re scared.

Show dates are Oct. 14, 15, 16, 28, 29, 30 and 31, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m., with a special Halloween performance beginning at 8 p.m. There are no shows Oct. 21-23.

Tickets are $15 with advance reservation or $20 at the door. Champagne Opening price is $25 advance and $30 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the secure website at www.pagosacenter.org or by calling 731-SHOW.

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