The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; $20. SacImpulse at Ooley Theatre, 2007 28th Street; (916) 457-2129; Through November 2.
Rated 5.0

SacImpulse steps away from its history of comedy to get extremely creepy in this aptly timed short engagement of Henry James’ novel of psychological horror, The Turn of the Screw. Adapted for the stage by Jeffrey Hatcher—of Compleat Female Stage Beauty fame—the story relies on language and the skills of two actors to create and intensify a sense of dread.

In short, it’s the perfect literary Halloween show, and SacImpulse does it to deliciously frightful perfection.

As the Governess, Kayla Berghoff (most recently in Sacramento Theatre Company’s A Little Princess) goes from a naif to a nutcase with an amazing alacrity. She shows, from her opening scenes, a mix of innocence and ego that makes her unraveling both predictable and horrifying.

She is matched by Jerry Lee in every other role—something we’ve only seen him do in comedies before this. He is the distant gentleman, the working-class governess, the 10-year-old boy, and, yes, even the sound effects. While his natural turn toward comedy comes through in the earlier scenes, rather than a tone break, this serves to lull the audience a bit in preparation for the terror to come.

Berghoff and Lee use physical and vocal technique with such prowess, that it’s not merely a matter of suspending disbelief, there’s simply no question: We must believe.

Directed by Gail Dartez, The Turn of the Screw is the perfect seasonal show. It’s also an excellent example of blending traditional theatrical arts with classic literature. It’s sure to sell out for its three remaining performances, so get tickets early.