Hatcher has made explicit some of the sexual undercurrent of James's original. Here, Mrs. Grose states plainly that the two children not only witnessed Miss Jessel and Peter Quint having sex but may even have been forced to participate in some way. Hatcher also explains (as James didn't) how Quint and Miss Jessel died: both committed suicide following the discovery that Miss Jessel was pregnant. There's a tradeoff in the loss of ambiguity: the sensationalism makes the narrative more accessible as a stage piece. And Hatcher does preserve James's ambivalence as to whether the ghosts exist. Even if the children are not actually haunted, they've been traumatized by their own memories of these deaths. Flora is so troubled by the experience of discovering Quint's corpse that she becomes mute. Hatcher's Miles and Flora are a young Adam and Eve, growing up together in the garden of Bly, but doomed to endure this terrible knowledge.

Gianni Downs's minimalist scenic and lighting designs blur the line between natural and supernatural. As per Hatcher's instructions, an armchair serves as the only furniture. A tree made out of drooping string branches and lightbulbs shakes and bursts into brightness during a climactic storm. Landry and Schreiber slip in and out of shadow on a slightly rotated trapezoid stage with a corner dipping out over the front row to emphasize the unhinged, off-kilter environment at the House of Bly. Also as per Hatcher, Downs avoids electronic sound effects. Instead, Landry voices abbreviated stage directions ("Footfall, footfall . . . deadbolt!"), and radio-play onomatopoeia ("Crack!"). And Schreiber and Landry provide a musical soundtrack with their own singing and humming. (There's a particularly eerie lullaby.) Conjuring the Victorian fireside storyteller of James's tale, these simple tricks are all that's necessary to scare.

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