Archive for August, 2009

Review – A Streetcar Named Desire – Donmar Warehouse

August 27, 2009

Coming out of Hamlet, I was feeling pretty chary about going to A Streetcar Named Desire. Woo woo, another celeb driven classic that should have been revived simply based on its own merits and not because some screen star felt like spending his/her time slumming on the stage. I had been really excited about getting tickets to it (mostly thanks to the West End Whingers’ review), but this had all trickled away by the time the actual day rolled around. And, well, I had a cold (which I still have, three days later), and I actually tried to return the tickets, but the Donmar wouldn’t accept them as we actually had the paper tickets in our hands and couldn’t get them in theirs without trudging into town. So we trudged, bringing lots of cough drops and hoping we didn’t irritate the other patrons too much.

In retrospect, I’m glad they wouldn’t accept my tickets over the phone, as this was really a spectacular presentation of what I’m now convinced is one of the best plays of the 20th century – a play that far surpasses its silver screen version. Sure, the movie is an hour shorter, but the stuff that’s packed into that hour, which we get to see on stage, is really amazing. Tennessee Williams convinced us that these people existed – Stella (Ruth Wilson, incredibly superior to the film’s Stella), making a life for herself with the cards she was dealt, and succeeding at it far better than her sister; Stanley (Elliot Cowan), a violent bully who’s also loving and protective; Mitch (Barnaby Kay), a man who wants love in the form of someone who appeals to his better nature; and Blanche (Rachel Weisz), who’s pretentious and a liar but still trying to get through a life that seems headed downhill in a way that won’t leave her utterly broken. After the show we wound up debating what their pasts were like and what their futures were likely to be – meaning we’d accepted them as real people. Now that is some damned fine writing.

It has to be said that the presentation of this show did much to make it feel so real. J, who’s a big burnout due to getting a theatrical MFA and having spent most of his 20s in the theater, actually gasped when he walked in and saw the Donmar had been entirely transformed into the French Quarter, complete with replacement lacy ironwork surrounding the upper floor of the theater instead of the normal workaday iron bars. (This made us feel like we were spectators for a bunch of family fights in our neighborhood, quite appropriate given how close these folks lived together.) The set captured nicely both the airiness of the French Quarter and the very much run-down nature of life there pre-gentrification – a gorgeous spiral staircase wound up almost three stories but still, it was just two crappy two roomed apartments piled on top of each other – beauty, rot and claustrophobia all right there.

While the focus of the show (and my review) could easily be on Ms. Rachel Weisz as Blanche (she was, after all, on stage for pretty much every minute of the show), I wasn’t so amazed by her performance – it was good but I don’t think defined the role in the way I was hoping for. (She was too shrill at times and just a touch too young for the role.) However, the supporting cast was so generally outstanding that I’d like to pay them tribute. My favorite was Ruth Wilson as Blanche’s sister, Stella. This role was pretty much a cipher in the movie – a pregnant woman married to an abusive husband. But in this play, it was clear she was also a woman who’d given up a glorious past and let herself go with her passionate side – yet wound up in a much better place than Blanche, because she’d turned her back on it and never looked back. Ruth (as Stella) was really convincingly in love with Stanley and made the strain she felt being pulled between her husband and her sister very visible. She also had a bit of the look of someone who used to get all dressed up and know what proper manners were supposed to be. What was amazing was how she and Elliot Cowan were really able to carry off the dynamic of two people who were both intensely sexually attracted to each other but also could fight violently – then pull through the anger and make up to each other, all the while showing how close they were to each other – this was a vision of life in America that had so much truth to it I couldn’t believe it had ever really been portrayed as well on the stage before or since. God knows Carousel didn’t manage it.

While this may not be the Streetcar of a lifetime, still, it was vibrant and alive and worth dragging myself off my sickbed to see. And, I’m pleased to say, we didn’t wind up coughing our way through it, and even though we were stuck way off on the sides we could still see it pretty darned well. If you haven’t got tickets, well, time to hope this show gets transferred – though to be honest I don’t think you’ll ever capture that famous Donmar intimacy (and the effect this has on you as an audience member) anywhere else. Recommended.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, August 25th. It continues through October 3rd. The Donmar releases standing room tickets for every performance, and this is worth standing through. Else, please see my tips on getting tickets for sold out shows.)

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Isango Portobello returns! £5 if you can go on September 14th.

August 26, 2009

What good news was in my inbox today! Isango Portobello, the South African troupe behind the awesome (Olivier Award winning) Magic Flute of two years back, is coming back to London in September for a five week run of their new show, “Yiimimangaliso” (or “The Mysteries”), at the Garrick Theatre. Yay! I’ve been waiting to see them again for ages, since I thought both of the shows they did last time (the other being a version of The Christmas Carol) were awesome.

This news came to me courtesy of the Evening Standard weekly e-newsletter, which has been good for rather a nice spate of free tickets as well as listings of off-West end two-fer deals. This one had a line about the return of Isango Portobello and a FANTASTIC offer for £5 tickets to the September 14th preview. WHAT A DEAL! (Full listings for their theater club here for the interested.)

Um, only one problem for me, see: that’s my husband’s birthday. So, er, well, I kind of have other plans. 😦 And per Nimax (the official theater booking website for the Garrick, also has a bit more detail about the show), tickets are normally priced from £35-£47. So I throw myself on good old Last Minute, and I see I can get tickets for the previews (11th – 14th September) for £20-£25, but then it’s on to $25-$45 – not much of a deal from the regular price (though if you book them during theater week you can save a bit more, £15-£35.

So mostly I’m kind of frustrated here, because I could get in it really cheaply – but only if I blew off my husband’s birthday. Which, you know, isn’t really possible. I guess I will go eventually, and probably in the crappy seats in the third balcony, or trusting in my luck at having something good show up at the TKTS booth … but, well, that’s just not as good as having tickets in my pocket. But having this company come back is really good news, and I thought I’d pass this on in case someone else out there can actually go.

(Isango Portobello’s “The Mysteries” appears to be running from September 11th through October 3rd, 2009.)

Review – Hamlet (with Jude Law) – Donmar “West End” (at Wyndham’s Theatre)

August 22, 2009

The Jude Law Hamlet put on by the Donmar is, I think, the most-hyped show of this year’s West End season – sold out sooner than Helen Mirrim’s Phedre, source of more “guess how many foolish tourists were waiting in line for returns at God awful o’clock” jokes than Sir Ian and Patrick Stewart’s Godot, basically Hot Hot Hot at least as far as how many tickets people wanted and how few were available.

I knew about the show more than early enough to get tickets, but I didn’t buy them, despite the fact I think Jude Law is quite sexy, for three reasons. First, I have an annual Bard limit, and I just wasn’t interested in blowing it on yet another Hamlet. (The Donmar West End series as a whole was so very un-risk taking, except for the excrable Madame de Sade, and anyone with eyes to read the script with could tell THAT didn’t deserve a revival. Still, Hamlet, bah and yawn.) Second, the early reviews (such as the West End Whingers) weren’t very enthusiastic. And third, well, I just didn’t want to bother with this show simply because a cinema star had been cast in it to pull in the punters. I think this is poor practice as it results in shows being performed by people who aren’t really cut out for it, and a disappointing night out for me. Shakespearean actors who’ve made the leap to the big stage is one thing, but to be honest, the magic just doesn’t seem to work in the other direction.

And yet … and yet. I, too, apparently can fall prey to hype, and after a whole summer spent pooh-poohing the whole affair, I finally broke down when I saw it was being transferred to Broadway. “My God!” I thought. “Perhaps I am missing the show of the year” (a la Black Watch), “and even if I did make it to New York, I wouldn’t be able to afford it!” So I took advantage of my gardening leave and found myself a single ticket for a Wednesday matinee, and off I went.

Well, I don’t know if it was the fact I was seeing a show in the middle of the day or if it was because I was seeing yet another (yawn) Hamlet, but GOD was sitting through this play work. Law was waving his hands around like he was conducting an orchestra (causing me to laugh during his speech to the players, “Nor do not saw the air too much with your hands”), and I found myself wishing the man who was playing the ghost, clearly a pro, was actually in the title role. The actors were in general serviceable, but in no way memorable, and I found myself yearning for the hair-raising brilliance of Stewart’s Macbeth. Really, must Shakespeare be so dull? Though the bit where Ophelia was being lectured by her brother and father on Hamlet’s lecherous nature provided some giggles, mostly it felt like the long-awaited end of a show that had just run out of energy.

At any rate, I can now say “I saw it when,” but to be honest I wish I could just say I’d gone to see a show I enjoyed instead.

(Hamlet closes tonight. Don’t worry, it’ll be done again soon.)

Review – State Fair – Finborough Theater

August 21, 2009

On Wednesday, Worthy Opponent, hard core musicals fan Amy, and I headed to the great wild west of London (Earl’s Court, to be more precise) to see the Finborough Theater’s production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s State Fair, which I’d been told about on somebody’s Twitter feed. This show had special interest to be because 1) it was Rogers and Hammerstein and 2) it was the show of theirs that was originally written for a movie and was done when R&J were at the height of their powers. And, of course, I’d never seen it, in part because as a musical to be performed live, it’s a fairly new creation. To top it all off, it was directed by Thom Sutherland, who’s Annie Get Your Gun was one of the best musicals I’ve seen in London.

My hope was that seeing this would expose me to a motherlode of missing R&H songs of the same caliber as those in Oklahoma. But it wasn’t the case, and instead, most of the songs seemed weak or throwaways, though “All I Owe Ioway” (“I-O-I-O-WAY!”) was a real barn burner (tee hee) and “More than Just A Friend” (a.k.a. “Sweet Hog of Mine“) was funny and had great barbershop-style harmonies. Researching this later, this makes some sense, as many of these songs were actually discards. The original five from the 1945 film included Academy Award winner, “It Might As Well Be Spring,” but, really, five songs isn’t much to build a musical on, so it makes sense that they had to add more – but unfortunately this did not allow for a production that even had the least hopes of Oklahoma‘s musicality.

The script itself was also rather thin. I’m actually very willing to buy into a show about a farm family putting their prize pickles and pigs into a competition – hell, I’ve entered my own baked goods into the Johnson County fair and the Arizona State fair, so I’m no stranger to the whole business – but the plot line about the romance between Wayne Frake (Siôn Lloyd) and Emily (Helen Phillips?) just didn’t make any sense to me. It’s possible the other romance, that of Margy (Laura Main) and Pat, only made sense because Margy had a glorious, peaches and cream innocence to her – and voice that matched – but I suspect that instead I found her wish to not be trapped in a romance she didn’t want back home, and Pat’s desire to not be trapped in a dead-end job after the excitement of being a war correspondence (which leads to him standing Margy up the last night of the fair) far more honest than a showgirl falling for a farm boy in any way.

Or, well, maybe some of it was just how horrible Emily was. I have to blame the costuming for this; with her 2009 sharp edged blonde locks and 1980s ball gowns, she looked like a slumming Russian hooker. (In her first appearance, I was convinced she was a prostitute working the midway – which I found a bit hard to combine with the family-friendly nature of a 40’s musical, but which is what goes on in real life at these fairs.) This combined with her inability to sell the role served to pretty much kill any scene that she was in.

This leads to a more general complaint: the costuming and hair for this show actually brought it down a full two stars, as it DISTRACTED me from the show. So many things were so horribly wrong – the tiered red skirt one of the actresses wore, Ma’s god-awful hair (totally nice in real life but layered hair just wasn’t happening in the 40s), the vile dresses the nightclub singers wore. I could almost forgive the hair (except for Emily, because it was so utterly wrong, I would have donated money to the theater to have paid for a wig for her), but since there’s a MOVIE people can watch to do their research, where, I ask you, did they come up with their ideas for what was appropriate? Even budget is no excuse. The choices were so wrong that it looked like half of the cast was costumed from a bag that was pulled at random from in front of a charity shop. Thank goodness most of the men were passable, but AGH.

While many in the cast were good singers and Pa (Philip Rham) could totally fill the little theater with his big voice, unfortunately Ma (Susan Travers) was not hitting it the night I went. Perhaps it was the heat – it was so intense inside the theater (I’m guessing 30-33) that, even with my bottle of water, I grew lightheaded before intermission hit – it was like doing an hour long commute on the Victoria line in the worst of the summer. We were warned to bring something to drink on, but at these temperatures they should have kept the AC running during the show and let the cast sing over it. I gotta say, I can’t remember the last time I went to a show where I lost weight before the end of the night, but I had a dehydration headache like nobody’s business the next day, which was a pitiful thing given that all I’d had to drink was water.

Overall, while some of the dancing was good and some of the singers were very good, this was just a rather weak show – worth seeing if you’re an R&J completist, but otherwise far more fringey and amateurish than most of what I’ve seen off of the West End. And if it’s above 27 outside, I’d just skip it altogether – unless you want to wear a swimsuit and pretend you’re dropping in for a Bikram Yoga session.

(This review was for a performance that took place on Wednesday, August 19th. State Fair continues at the Finborough through August 29th, 2009.)

Review: “Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall” – Hampstead Theatre

August 20, 2009

My best friend W is a big Spike Milligan fan, and after reading the positive review of this show in the Metro (and seeing tickets could be had for a mere 15 quid), I was up and raring to go to the great wild north, wherein the mysterious and previously unvisited venue called the Hampstead Theater could be found. I was going to be fresh off of a week in Greece, but no matter, I was eager to plunge back into a cold, dark room while the English summer continued weakly attempting to throw a few rays of sunshine at us.

Per W, this show is pretty much thoroughly lifted from Milligan’s war memoirs (which he’s read ten times), with lots of recognizable bits for the faithful to enjoy. And the theater seemed packed with said faithful – lots of the 50 through 70+ year old set had come out for a show which was by someone I’m guessing they were familiar with (me, as an American, less so, and really only through W) as well as a topic they related to (more or less). In fact, the whole thing had the air of a successful venture (it looked sold out from where we sat) for a very community-based theater.

I, however, had only the shows actual merits to go on, and I read it as a pretty light series of sketches held together with a fair bit of good music. The “story,” as such (there’s not much to it), is about Milligan’s WWII experience, from being drafted to fighting (or, rather, waiting) in North Africa to finally going to Italy and then (I think) Berlin. He mostly stays with his small and tight unit, all of whom play instruments (not sure if this was for real or not – he was a gunner, but was he also an entertainer?). Between recollections of trying to stave off boredom while standing in a hole and while hanging out in the bunkroom, the band perform various comic songs and do skits. It kind of read to me like a base-generated entertainment to raise morale, but I wasn’t sure if it actually was based on his experiences or just something they came up with to fill the time between the actual memoir bits.

Overall, I enjoyed this show for what it was – a lighthearted and highly musical rendition of one man’s experience in the war. I liked it more for just how very common I felt like his experience was – it was just one soldier among thousands (or even millions), though he and his unit appeared to have much better luck than a lot of other ones. However, Milligan’s actual smart-alecky cracks were distracting to me – I found it hard to believe a guy could spend four years sounding like he walked off the set of a situation comedy. Still, the music was good, the physical comedy was fun to watch, and the performers were both impressive singers and musicians. I’d recommend it if you were looking for a fun night out – with nearly a total lack of the tragedy you might expect for a play set during a war.

(“Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall” continues at the Hampstead Theater through Saturday, August 22nd, 2009. This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, August 17th.)

Doing the impossible: finding tickets for the Donmar’s “Hamlet” (with Jude Law)

August 17, 2009

You know, you go back to the Donmar West End‘s ticket site and over and over see “Hamlet is now sold out” and you call the theater and they say, “Oh NOES we has no tickets, please go wait in line in front of the theater with the other losers for a chance at standing through the show” (after standing in line for eight hours) and then you realize that YES you have magic and you say, “I shall call and see if I can get just a single ticket for the very last Wednesday matinee as I am free that day” and the lovely lady goes ahead and looks for you (as you have urged her to do) and LO there is not a sold out show in London that I have not been able to get tickets for yet and I shall see my cinematic idol performing the works of the bard before it goes to Broadway and for the mere price of £25 quid. And sitting down to book. Lo, truly, I am magic!

(Note: I’m pleased to see that they are actually going to make an effort, in the Donmar style, to keep this Hamlet affordable when it makes it to the other side of the pond. Pere Telecharge, regular price for evening tickets for this show in New York on a weekend is $251.50; weekend matinees are $226.50; otherwise it’s $116.50 and then the $25 tickets. I admit that part of the reason I am seeing it here, now, is because I am saving so much money over what I would be if I were seeing it in New York. That said, people who shop now for this show can get $25 tickets in the upper mezzanine; good on the Donmar for making an effort to actually let normal people enjoy theater instead of it just being a treat for the fat cats!)

HINTS FOR GETTING TICKETS TO SOLD OUT SHOWS without going to scalpers
1. Be flexible about the date you can go and number of tickets you need.
2. Call the house and keep checking on availability.
3. On the day of, it may pay to check several times a day, especially as it gets toward the end of the day.
4. Wheedle with the ticket staff to check.
5. Ask if there’s a waiting list and ask to be put on it.
6. Show up night of and get in line.
7. If you’re in line, have cash in your hand (and be ready to pay it out for the top priced ticket)
8. See someone looking like they’re going to sell a ticket and you’re in line? See if you can make eye contact with them and get them to just sell it to you, but be sure that if you do this, you’re buying a real ticket. You’ll make everyone else in line hate you if you effectively queue jump them, but hey, it’s a tough life and you’ll never see them again.
9. Matinees are magic because there are always less people looking to see those shows.

(Hamlet runs at Wyndham’s through 22nd August 2009, after which it moves to the Broadhurst Theatre in New York, from September 12th through December 6th. $25 tickets are available now, so don’t hesitate to buy if you’re hoping to see this on the cheap!)

Mini-review – Jerusalem – Royal Court Jerwood Theatre

August 8, 2009

Jerusalem is a very long play, and with 3 1/4 hours of play to discuss, and what with it being sold out, I find myself more attracted to brevity in writing about it as a change of pace. Jerusalem is what the Scottish Peer Gynt wishes it had been: a long visit with a trailer-dwelling rascal that never wears out its welcome. Rooster, the lead character, is a late-middle-age tomcat who makes a living dealing drugs and going on the occasional house-painting expedition, as required by local housewives; he’s earned the ire of nearly every person in town. Yet despite this, he’s not a bad character, though thankfully not a “lovable rogue.” He likes to party, but he’s no hypocrite, and despite the underaged shenanigans going on around him, he keeps his hands off the teenaged girls and really “gets” that what they’re doing is pretty much what kids have always been doing.

Though there’s certainly a plot to this play, to me it seemed far more about character, and creating a place and time that seemed very real (and very modern Somerset, if I’m not mistaken). I liked how real the players seemed, and enjoyed having an opportunity to hear some different voices on stage – and a more realistic depiction of life outside of Lodon than I usually see. While I don’t think there’s enough to it to make it a classic and doubt it will get revived, it was certainly worth seeing and a good night out. (Also, the sight of two teenaged girls leaping over chairs and couches to get at lines of coke is one I won’t soon forget.)

Review – BLINK! … and you missed it – The Stag Pub

August 6, 2009

BLINK! …and you missed it is a show designed for the musical theater geeks out there … you know, the kind of people who read blog reviews of shows because they’re just that desperate to fill up their sad and lonely nights with that one little gem that they want to be sure they don’t miss and spend years regretting not having seen. For the more extreme, this may lead to trying to see … well, not so much the gems as the rocks, the big honking flops that go on to become showbiz legends. There’s even a book or two written about these dogs, so that those of us who missed their magic can savor the sweet pain of failure.

I, however, find little consolation in remembering a night spent yearning to leap over the other audience members in a mad rush to the door. I’ve seen a few flaming stinkers in my time, but I won’t seek them out deliberately. That said, there’s no denying that buried in the fetid pile of Shows That Did Not Sell are some gems of songs – no surprise when we’re talking greats like Kander & Ebb and Mr. Sondheim – who, shockingly, have not had nothing but a string of successes. (And, I am informed, there are shows that flopped the first time around due to “right show/wrong time” syndrome, like La Cage or even “right show/wrong country,” witness the early closing work of genius Drowsy Chaperone in London.)

So, for me, I approached Blink! as my big chance to enjoy some great songs – performed live – that I would have otherwise not had the chance to see on stage. That’s not, however, quite what I got, as the show had a bit of a theme and a goal, the theme being “highlight some big flops,” and the goal not being “play all of the great, forgotten songs that are wasting away in the sheet music for the turkey parade” (there being no excuse for playing “As We Stumble Along” from Drowsy Chaperone as it’s simply the lamest bit of music in the whole show). Some of the songs were simply meant to highlight shows that were examples of egregious lack of judgment on the part of their producers (i.e. Moby Dick, Side Show – about Siamese twins – and Silence, aka “of the Lambs”). Other songs were really great (“My Own Best Friend” from Chicago), some hinted at forgotten greatness (“Spark of Creation” from Children of Eden, which might have sucked as a show but the three women really sang up a storm). Overall, the shows were treated fairly reverently, rather than being made fun of, so if somehow a song or two you liked has made it in, you’re not likely to go away fuming that they brutalized or misrepresented it (well, except for the “egregious judgment” ones above).

In the midst of this, we also got to hear a song that was frightfully brilliant – “Everybody’s Girl,” lifted from Steel Pier (“It’s absolutely gratis/To use my apparatus”) – and a great performance of “When the Morning Comes” from Ballroom, which had sappy lyrics somehow redeemed by Elena Rossi’s singing. The high quality of the cast in general was fairly impressive, even though the mostly historical patter between numbers was a bit dry (if informative). Running time was not quite two hours with an interval, so I’d say this was, at 10 quid, a good way to spend your evening – and far better than actually having to sit through most of the musicals they were covering.

(“BLINK! … and you missed it” continues at the Above the Stag theater through August 16th, 2009.)

Hot tip: tix available for Tuesday August 11th Hamlet

August 5, 2009

I’ve been frustrated by the sold-out-ed-ness of the Donmar’s Hamlet, but apparently there are about a dozen tickets available for next Tuesday’s performance (August 11th). I won’t be able to go as I’ll be out of town, but I thought I’d pass the tip along as someone is bound to want ’em …

Review – Ghosts – Arcola Theatre

August 3, 2009

On Friday night, J, W, Mel, Bill and I went to the Arcola Theater to see their production of Ghosts. I was, of course (if you’ve been reading this blog for long), interested because of my deep love of Ibsen’s work (and a previous mostly successful interpretation of Ibsen by the Arcola) – and then there’s also the pre-show carnivores’ banquet at the nearby 19 Numara Bos Cirrik, always a motivation for a trip to Dalston.

Ghosts run for three acts with no interval, meaning roughly a two hour running time. But unlike the overblown Phedre, Ghosts blazed along from start to finish with barely a pause to catch its breath. It was like a 19th century version of August, Osage County – incest, drug use, suicide, and deep dark family dysfunctions – but set in a Victorian society ruled by Biblical morality. As the show tumbled from one horrific revelation to another, it felt like being in a car during the last seconds before a crash – everything was hyper-real and felt completely unavoidable.

Yet somehow it never seemed too over the top, like Osage ultimately was. We started with a woman who was excited to have her son visiting after a long absence, we’re told about the orphanage she’s opening in honor of her husband, we meet the maid who’s in love with the son. One by one, the things we thought we knew unravel, each new tragic element reframing to the whole, as we find out what the actual truth iss underneath the inaccurate pretty picture we started with. Finally it comes back to the only original truth, that Mrs. Alving loves her son, and what that now means for both of them and their lives.

Of the characters, my favorite was Pastor Manders, whose lines Paul Hickey somehow managed to say with a straight face. This closed-minded preacher starts the play by lecturing Mrs Alving (Suzanne Burden) about how wrong it is to read the corrupt literature her son (Osvald, played by Harry Lloyd) has brought home – then admits he hasn’t read it himself as he prefers to criticize based on second hand knowledge! Over the course of the evening we see him tempted and twisted and finally served his come-uppance (as I saw it) – as tasty a theatrical treat as one could ever hope to bite into.

This play really hinges on Mrs Alving’s performance, given that she is on stage for about 90% of the show, and Ms. Burden generally did a good job of creating a woman who’d spent most of her life living a lie and was ready to move into a new world of openness and freedom from social shackles. However, at the end when she was cracking under the stress of her son’s illness, she went rather more histrionic than I was willing to swallow. That said, who knows what the proper response should have been at the end of the play … but it was only about 5 minutes when I lost connection with the drama, and I’d been caught up for the rest of the show, so it was a minor flaw.

I also very much enjoyed the performance of Natasha Broomfield as Regine and Jim Bywater as her slimy dad Engstrand. Engstrand is such a schemer, a real laugh to watch on stage, and I pretty much forgot he was acting because it all sounded so natural, like he’d just thought it up while he was standing there! Meanwhile Broomfield really seemed to “get” the bizarre social limitations of 19th century society and how it would make both Regine’s dad’s job offer and the situation at the Alvings’ house completely unacceptable for her. She also formed the face of the society the Pastor represented, the conservative Norwegian society, and showed just how much Osvald and his mother were shaking up the social order with their radical ideas. Of course, the idea of a woman choosing to pursue her own happiness over her duty and to think her own thoughts was radical enough – living together “without benefit of matrimony” really was just pushing it too far. No wonder Osvald felt the darkness of Norway sucking the life out of his body … in that day and age, I would have, too.

In short: Ghosts was a really fun evening out and, as an Arcola play, fairly easy on the budget. It’s an interesting script and well worth watching. Our two hours flew by! And it certainly deserved better than the half full house it got on Friday. Check it out while it’s on.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, July 31st. Ghosts continues through August 22nd.)