The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
by Carl F. Gauze
Featuring Stephen Pugh
Directed by Tara Kromer
Based on a story by Washington Irving
Adapted by Derek G. Martin and Jesse M. Sullivan
The cool thing about horror is no matter how often you hear a particular ghost story, it can still give you the creeps. Tonight’s story is an American literary chestnut, first published in 1819. Sleepy Hollow endures to this day as a tale of horror with an ambiguous moral. Narrated by a schoolteacher (Pugh) in a one room schoolhouse, he uses this creepy story to tame his unruly and unseen students. After a brief lecture on why school is a good thing, he gives up and spend the days lesson trying to scare the pants off his charges. Fear and intimidation – important elements of education for over 2500 years. You may even know the story: a single and rather prissy school master Ichabod Crane courts Katrina Van Tassel, the wealthy daughter of the areas richest. He competes with a larger and more earthy man Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt who works hard, parties hard and has a wicked if earthy sense of humor. As the school master rides home late at night in a very dark forest, he meets a headless horseman and and flees as fast as his tired mules can go. So much for marrying up.
The production here is impressive. A fully equipped schoolhouse complete with desks and chalk give Mr. Pugh plenty of room to maneuver, and his characterization of multiple voices all ring true and distinct. The youngish audience seemed enthralled, no one wander away from mom that I could see. Then there’s a big special effect surprise ending to buttoned up the show. The versatile Mr. Pugh easily and convincingly slides between frustrated teacher to fussy priss and then to earthy mountain man. A mist of smoke and dim lighting added to the atmosphere, and the smallish house still presented a rousing applause barrage. Comedy can wear thin quickly, but horror persists, and this magic mix seems to transcend and cross over that limitation.