Bella Manningham is losing her mind just like her mother did. Things keep disappearing. A missing portrait keeps turning up behind a bureau. The grocery bill’s gone missing.
Her husband Jack warns what will happen to her if she does not behave as a proper wife in the Victorian Age should. Try as she might, madness seems the only explanation for what’s happening to Bella until a stranger knocks on her door.
Penobscot Theatre Company’s production of Patrick Hamilton’s “Gaslight” is visually lush, satisfyingly suspenseful and surprisingly modern in its portrayal of the techniques emotional abusers use to manipulate their victims. Director Bari Newport sometimes sacrifices dramatic tension for the sake of humor, but that does not significantly mar the production.
Set in 1880 in London, “Gaslight” is a tale of emotional domestic abuse and how one woman is rescued from her husband by the truth. First performed in 1938, it introduced the term “gaslighting” into the language as a way to “manipulate [someone] by psychological means into questioning their own sanity,” according to the online dictionary Lexico.