Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Review Posted: The Ghost Sonata

Centerstage has posted my review of The Ghost Sonata at Oracle. Sadly it didn't do much for me, though there was interesting stuff going on. I do want to point out something cool that Oracle is doing, though: starting next season, every single seat is going to be free, funded entirely by donations. This is something a lot of theatres have discussed, but very few do--Mike Daisey would be pleased. This is certainly worth attention and support, so those of you with cash to spare, please go help them out. Anyhow, here's the text of the review:

It's not necessarily a bad thing for a play to be confusing. Indeed, for a bizarre script like August Strindberg's "The Ghost Sonata," a clear story is entirely beside the point. So it's no criticism to say that the production directed by Max Truax is virtually impenetrable: such basic questions as who people are, what their relationships are, what they are doing, and where it's happening are only clear after much time and thought on the audience's part, and then only partially. The problem is that the audience is only rarely drawn in to the experience. Without that engagement, the evening never hits the notes of existential horror and disturbing imagery that are necessary to care. Despite the obvious theatrical intelligence of Truax and his collaborators, the audience is left in a state of mild bewilderment, leavened only by the occasional laugh or startling image.

The story, as far as can be gathered, concerns an Old Man (Rich Logan), who uses an innocent Student (Federico Rodriguez) to infiltrate the home of the Colonel (Sean Ewert). The Student loves the Daughter (Stephanie Polt), but by the time he reaches her, he has seen a world of corruption and endless frustration.

There is much to admire. The actors are completely committed (with Logan's creepy, twitchy performance particularly strong), and sometimes find the thread of horror that runs through the script. The design creates the play's skewed world, particularly Brieanne Hauger's perspective-skewing set, Jonathan Guillen's pervasive underscoring and Michael Janicki's bizarre video design. But it never goes beyond admiration. For a work pitched to this emotional intensity, it's vital that the audience be drawn in, whether by the characters' emotions, the language's potency, or the sheer weirdness of the affair. And while the production is sometimes impressive, it's stubbornly uninvolving.


Bob said...

I admire the way you write. Well done!

Zev Valancy said...

Thanks--you're a damn good writer too!