Stoneham presented yet another skillful thriller
STONEHAM – When it comes to a particular genre – noir, psychological thrillers, mysteries, etc. – the Stoneham Theatre has shown both an affinity for such works and a skill in producing them.
Examples of past successful productions include “The Turn of the Screw,” “Strangers on the Train,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and last season’s “Laura.”
They did it again with the recently-concluded production of Moira Buffini’s “Gabriel,” set in February 1943 on the isle of Guernsey in the English Channel near the coast of Normandy., 21/2 years into the occupation of the island by the Nazis.
A widow named Jeanne Becquet (Georgia Lyman) has been tossed from her home to make way for Nazi officers and now lives in a farmhouse with her 10-year-old daughter Estelle, (Stoneham fourth-grader Marisa Simeqwi delivering a remarkably poised and polished performance); daughter-in-law Lily, (Josephine Moshiri Elmwood), and her brusque housekeeper Lake (Cheryl McMahon),
A small-time black market operation is apparently keeping the household going.
Then comes a half-dead stranger found washed up on a beach (Alexander Molina) who cannot remember who he is or how he ended up on the beach. Who is he?
The lord and master of the island is German Major Von Fundz, portrayed as a complicated, many-sided character by the estimable Thomas Derrah. That is not to say he is not evil, just that his evil is nuanced, apparently cultured, making his terror psychological as much as physical.
The extended pas de deux between Derrah as the colonel and Lyman as the woman doing her best to fend him off and protect her family at the same time is delicious. He plays with Jeanne as a cat would a mouse, pushing her towards an unwanted relationship and threatening the safety of Lily.
The washed-up man has been named Gabriel and there are several possible options as to his identity, and some of them pose a danger to Jeanne’s family and especially Lily.
The suspense builds as Jeanne walks a delicate line between trying to protect her family and Gabriel and dealing with Von Fundz.
“Gabriel” was skillfully directed by Weylin Symes and another example of Stoneham successfully presenting a very tricky genre.