“I just want my name to mean something,” spoken by Whitney as she strives to harness her craft and make her mark in history. But this wasn’t easy for Whitney to admit, especially to Terrence of all people during rehearsal. Throughout The Woman Under the Stage, Decker brilliantly explores the ways that art is conceived and accomplished at the risk of somebody’s well-being.
There are other actors in the play, one of whom is a method actor named Phillip (Phil Harrison). Harrison stresses Phillip’s commitment to the role quite comedically. Still, he is in one of the most excellently written and paced scenes, delivering an unsettling monologue to an unsuspecting Whitney about actors being afraid of never being as good as the actors that came before.
“…an insightful script and stylish direction…”
Taking place in the theater world, the director is looking at how art demands too much from performers, particularly for those with unexplored trauma and depression. Throughout, Whitney is tempted to drink from a metaphorical glass and give in to whatever awaits her. At the same time, she is bombarded with frightening visions and has conversations with specters.
As such, the horror components of The Woman Under the Stage don’t come out of left field. The visions start early and never let up. While the horror segments sometimes fall victim to cheap jump scares, the movie has an eerie vibe and often feels like a nightmare. Director of photography Evan Burns gets creative with the shallow focus, red/blue lighting, and muted coloring. Even a scene in a dressing room is ominous, with sensible use of reflections to throw off the subject and viewer.
Does art require sacrifice? If so, is it worth it? With an insightful script and stylish direction, The Woman Under the Stage is an ambitious and devastating piece of independent horror. Sure, sequences don’t enthrall on every occasion due to being stretched out. Still, because of the manner Decker presents an actor’s fears and desires for approval, this is a resounding production that stays with you.
"…does art require sacrifice?"