Do you love constantly clinging to the edge of your seat, riding out the twists and turns to see where it leads? This is not a drag race, this is Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight. Hitting Broadway by storm in the 1940s, the play is now en route to Whittier College’s own Ruth B. Shannon Center. The play will be directed by Visiting Lecturer for the Theatre Department Katie Liddicoat, who directed DollHouse two years ago at Whittier College. Second-year stage manager Ryan Talbert did not hesitate to share details about the upcoming production and praise the students involved in it. “It’s going along pretty well,” Talbert boasted. He easily summarized the show in two words: “Victorian-era thriller.” As stage manager, Talbert is in charge of blocking during the rehearsal process, lights, and sounds for the show.
Gaslight takes place entirely in the living room of the Mannighams, and, according to Talbert, there will be characters driving each other insane — there’s murder too! With their cast of five including second-year Lauren Estrada, third-year Sydney Summers, and fourth-years Gunner Joachim, Nikki Knupp, and Ruben Sanchez, Talbert is more than confident in the acting for this show, encouraging fellow students, faculty, and the Whittier community to come out and witness Gaslight. “The performances are really good. Nikki knocked it out of the park. Liddicoat’s good at directing,” said Talbert, who extended compliments to everyone involved in the production.
Long-time theatrical performer Nikki Knupp plays the wary but strong female lead Bella Manningham, who is the wife and mistress of the house in Gaslight. Knupp has been involved in six productions in the Whittier College Theatre Department since Love and Information, their first production in the spring of 2015.
Knupp gave insight to several key themes within the play, “It’s definitely hard to say some of these without spoilers, but I’ll just say some words: deception, trust, self-assurance, autonomy, discovery, agency, and working outside of societal expectations to solve an individual problem,” they said. Knupp also provided a compelling argumentexplaining why everyone in the Whittier College community would benefit from watching the show. “This play discusses relationships and agency in a clever way, even though it’s a kind of Sherlock-y Victorian thriller,” Knupp explained. “Although you don’t necessarily know exactly who you’re rooting for at first, you really begin to try and piece together clues from the get-go. Honestly, it is like one of those books you want to read twice so that you can follow along the second time to see all the clues fall into place yourself.”
Knupp also disclosed what really reeled them into the production.“The twists and turns alone made me want to audition when I first read the play, but now that the show is up on its feet, you can really see all of the hard work and detail everyone has put into everything,” they said.
Fourth-year and fellow performer in Gaslight Ruben Sanchez agreed with Knupp’s comment saying, “Emotionally, this show is filled with twists and turns. The show touches on topics such as abusive relationships and infidelity, and also has a thriller-esque aspect to it.” Sanchez plays Knupp’s male counterpart, Jack Manningham. He added that the small cast of five has been working tirelessly almost every night ever since school started. “It feels like we’re working an assembly line because we’ve just gotten better and better at what we’re doing,” he said.
Knupp later went on to describe the extreme intricacy of the set and costumes and the period-accurate dialects and characters. “A lot of people’s hard work has created this show, under our brilliant director [Katie] Liddicoat’s guidance, and that’s very visible. I really think it’s going to be a show people remember here,” they said. Sanchez concluded by stressing how the audience would enjoy Gaslight. “This is a wonderful production, and all of us hope that everyone watching is on the edge of their seat and wondering what is going to happen every step of the way,” Sanchez said.
Gaslight is hitting the Shannon Center on Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. with tickets costing $5 with a student ID. The show continues through Oct. 13-14 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct 15 at 2:30 p.m., so make sure to get that student discount and grab a seat to watch this thriller unfold.