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    Spook and span

    Lanford Wilson's new translation of "Ghosts" is a skillfully acted and, with mixed success, sleekly streamlined version of Ibsen's classic.


    Like classical theater but not those time-consuming three-act productions? Then Lanford Wilson's streamlined translation of Ibsen's "Ghosts" may be just the intellectual quick fix you're looking for. Not only does this efficiently staged production, directed by Daniel Fish, clock in at a mere 90 minutes, its striking, visually minimalist design neatly consolidates elements of character and theme into an easily accessible package. This is both a positive and a negative aspect. While Wilson and Fish slice right to the core of the play, the production is so pared down and laden with symbolism that it steals focus from the characters.

    Written by: Henrik Ibsen.
    Directed by: Daniel Fish.
    Cast: Lisa DeMont, Daniel Gerroll, Amy Irving, David Patrick Kelly, Ted Schneider.
    Translate by Lanford Wilson.
    Classic Stage Company
    136 East 13th St.
    Nov. 10 - Dec. 8, 2002

    Thankfully, Fish has a capable cast that finds some meaty moments. Amy Irving and Daniel Gerroll excavate smidgens of the still-smoldering, but long-repressed, passion that lies within their characters, Mrs. Helen Alving and Reverend Manders. (Gerroll is especially adept at keeping his extensive expository dialogue from sounding like narration.) The vigorous David Patrick Kelly balances the paternal and pretentious sides of the lowly carpenter Engstrand. Though they display promising talent, the junior members of the cast, Ted Schneider as Mrs. Alving's son, Oswald, and Lisa DeMont as her servant, Regina, don't have the same mastery of their characters.

    "Sometimes I think what's right and proper is responsible for every evil in life," Mrs. Alving asserts near the end of the play, nicely summing up Ibsen's (and Wilson's) concerns about the devastating consequences of sacrificing truth for the sake of societal propriety. As a young wife, Helen ran away from her husband and toward Manders, who sent her back to fulfill her marital duty. Though she's been widowed for a decade, the barriers still remain.

    As do the ones between Mrs. Alving and Oswald. To protect him from the influence and knowledge of his philandering father, Helen sent him away when he was still a boy. Now that he's back in the homestead, she realizes that the distance she put between them may have been for naught: The ghost of his father has come back to haunt her in the form of her son, prompting Mom to finally reveal some dark family secrets.

    The one ray of light in the Alving household, Oswald is the only character whose clothes come from the brighter side of the color palette — though dressing him in soft-yellow suit so blatantly draws a correlation between him and the sun he cries out for at the end. And if you have any doubt these folks are emotionally estranged from one another, just look at the physical distance Fish often puts between them in scenes.

    Dark hues abound, in Christine Jones' stark, evergreen set, Kaye Voyce's heavy costumes and Scott Zielinski's shadowy lighting, which shifts to blazing as secrets come to light. Though at times Wilson's and Fish's interpretation of Ibsen's characters seem to have been formulated around a theme, instead of the other way around, this "Ghosts" is still keen treatment for a classic.

    NOVEMBER 21, 2002

    Reader comments on Ghosts:

  • Henrik you bad man   from clarence knightindale, Mar 1, 2004
  • yucky play   from gian carlo reyes, Nov 24, 2004
  • review   from Mouhannad, May 28, 2005
  • REQUEST   from G W, Nov 14, 2005
  • HELP!!!   from Omar, Dec 18, 2005
  • David Patrick Kelly   from Jerry Jagodzinski, Mar 8, 2006

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