House of the Damned

Seven solemn gables are not the only heavyweights around this mansion

The core acting of Garcia, Morgan, and Freundlich keeps the play engaging and moving, but there are moments when it is too static. Part of this can be attributed to the script, which at times is as literary and lumbering as the novel itself. But perhaps a more significant factor is the lack of dramatic intensity and range in the secondary characters of Uncle Venner, Judge Pyncheon, and Clifford. At the beginning Uncle Venner (played by Larry Jurrist) delivers several lines that are supposed to be funny but don't quite hit their mark. The humor is slow going, and it is only later in the play that he offers some comic relief, a welcome event in such a somber work.

The roles of Judge Pyncheon (Matthew Wright) and Clifford (Cantor) carry with them a considerable amount of unrealized dramatic potential. Clifford, newly released from the mental institution and obviously shell-shocked, shuffles around mumbling nonsensical things that are funny as one-liners; considering he has been done a great injustice and a good portion of his life has been spent paying for a crime he didn't commit, though, his character is underdeveloped. Likewise Judge Pyncheon, the true bad guy of the story, is duly greedy and nasty, but based on the family curse and his role in this history, he should come off much meaner.

Israel Garcia and Jonathan Cantor struggle with ghosts, curses, and old-fashioned values
Israel Garcia and Jonathan Cantor struggle with ghosts, curses, and old-fashioned values
Through August 6 at New Theatre, 65 Almeria Ave., Coral Gables, 305-443-5909

It is in these slow moments that we long for a shift in intensity or a change in perspective, something to which director de Acha should have paid more attention. He did, however, avoid many pitfalls that such a complicated plot could have produced. All in all the adaptation is successful in word and spirit, and the bulk of the dramatic movement is, if not suspenseful, engaging. A minimalist set designed by Douglas Molash and the soprano of Kimberly Daniel transform the New Theatre's small stage into an eerie and dreamy space -- one well worth entering.

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