‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ is spine tingling

Oct 10, 2013
Doug Dearmin as James and Jordan Fermstad as Roderick bring intensity to the Driftwood Players’ “Fall of the House of Usher.”

Entertainment has seasons. Just like certain types of movies are shown on a seasonal basis, so it is with plays.

In the wintertime, we get Christmas-themed plays.  In springtime, plays revolve around life changes and renewal, like “On Golden Pond” and “The Diary of Anne Frank.” In summertime, there is pure escapism like “The Music Man.”

In the fall, we have who-dun-its and thrillers.

The Driftwood Players is true to form with its staging of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” a story by the suspenseful Edgar Allan Poe and adapted by Jack Neary.

It begins with a middle-aged man named James Brookfield being questioned by a policeman. He is telling the officer how he happened to be standing in front of a burning house with two or more bodies inside.

In flashback, he tells his tale. The house belonged to two childhood friends of his: a brother and sister named Roderick and Madeline Usher. James hasn’t seen either of them in more than 20 years, but received an invitation to come for a visit.

Upon arrival, James immediately detects something’s amiss.  Madeline claims that Roderick is sick. Roderick tells him Maddie is a liar and that she’s the sick one. James notices that he sends Maddie to her room and orders her to stay there.

Roderick is selling off their stuff. James suspects that he wants to forget his childhood. James had always felt something ominous about the household when they were kids, and is seeing the toll it has taken on them.

The more time James spends there, the more disturbing things become. The brother is obviously dangerous. The only thing that keeps James there is loyalty and the need to help Maddie, although evidently his help has come too late.

This cast is extraordinary. Doug Dearmin as James is the classic everyman who wants to do the right thing, but is indecisive about what that is.

Roderick Usher is played with intensity by Jordan Fermstad.  Although the audience never gets the full story of his childhood or what drives him, he is just sympathetic enough to feel sorry for him.

Kelsey Hamilton is heartrending as Madeline. Her character gives the impression that she tried hard to escape her beginnings, only to get pulled back by force.

Mike Murdock plays the policeman Shaughsnessy. He’s a substitute for the audience who sits and listens objectively, while maintaining a certain sense of humor about things.

Renee Gilbert plays the Usher’s Irish maid Fiona. She’s helpful, but opinionated, and like James must explain to the policeman what she knows or suspects.

The part of the Usher’s personal physician, Dr. Tremblay, goes to John Hartquist. He too suspects too much, but does little to stop it.

Emily Fortuna plays the part of the mysterious Claire. What she has to do with all this must be learned during the viewing. And Jason Bradford plays another cop who is desk-ridden.

Don’t miss this spine-tingling show. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is playing Oct.10-13 at the Wade James Theater, 950 Main St., Edmonds.

Shows are at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. All seats are $14.

For ticket information go to www.driftwoodplayers.com or call (425) 774-9600.

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