Over the past few years, Osseo's Yellow Tree Theatre has built a reputation as a place to see great talent. Their latest, The Woman in Black, finds two veteran Twin Cities actors making their debut with the company: J.C. Cutler and Nat Fuller.
Longtime area actor and director Jon Cranney is in charge of the production.
"Jon practically brought me out here to work at the Children's Theatre after Julliard. Nat and I have worked together for years at the Guthrie and Park Square," Cutler says.
The two however, haven't had that many opportunities to interact onstage. That changes in The Woman in Black, as Fuller and Cutler play all of the roles in the ghostly tale.
Cranney performed in a version of the play for the Actors Theater of Minnesota a number of years ago. The two performers are coming into the material fresh.
"The first thing I did was read the book. After that, I read the script," Cutler says.
Fuller's first time at Yellow Tree was to see The Glass Menagerie, which was also directed by Cranney.
"Jon called me and asked if I would be interested in the play. He sent me the script and the idea of playing about seven different British characters was very rewarding," Fuller says.
Susan Hill's ghost story came to the stage in 1987, via the adaptation by Stephen Mallatrat. The stage play takes the story and recasts it as a play within a play, with the two actors taking on the various roles.
"The adaptation made a choice to tell the story as if it were being acted out. A good portion of the script is narration. Setting it in a theatrical setting lets us play 'let's pretend' with anything we wanted. A trunk can become a horse cart or a desk or other things," Cranney says.
To intensify that, this production is meant to be in a theater's trap space -- the area under the stage. "In every theater, that's where the detritus gathers," Cranney says.
The years of experience for the trio have made for smooth rehearsals.
"It's something like marriage. We have known each other for so long. We are not trying to solve problems as much as creating the moments. That is really wonderful," Cranney says.
"We've been able to concentrate on relationships and story. A lot of it is very subtle," Fuller says. "Our sensibilities are very the same."
After playing in many of the larger houses in the area, it's a pleasure for Fuller and Cutler to spend time in more intimate settings.
"I think we can get away with some things that are more subtle. Small reactions will carry greater power. I could grab [an audience member] if I wanted to. You can almost feel the heat off the person," Fuller says.
And that will only add to the scares within the play.
"The first scary stories that had an affect on me were the ones read to me in partial light as a kid. This production asks the audience to invest a lot in the imagination. The words are a kind of a banquet. Not everything is spelled out theatrically," Cutler says.
IF YOU GO:
The Woman in Black Friday through March 8 Yellow Tree Theater 320 Fifth Ave. SE, Osseo $18-$25 For tickets and more information, call 763.493.8733 or visit online.