Monday, February 26, 2018

Margin Notes: Ghost Story

Elissa Klie and Chelsea J. Smith as Hannah and
Meryl. Photo by David Fletcher.

Seen on: Friday, 2/23/18.
My grade: B

Plot and Background
Three women - Meryl, a healer; Lisa, her client facing a return of her breast cancer; and Hannah, Meryl's girlfriend - are haunted by the spectre of illness, and by questions they cannot answer. Little Spoon, Big Spoon partners with Cancer Hope Network to present this one-act by Mark Ravenhill, with 20% of the ticket sales going to CHN.

What I Knew Beforehand
I'd seen (and reviewed) an earlier Little Spoon, Big Spoon production, which included two of the same cast members as this show. Otherwise, I knew very little of the play going in.


Play: I like very much the idea of these women sharing strength with each other - giving when they see another is weak and needing support, and accepting that support when it's given. The play is an interesting sort of skirt to the gritty and mundane unpleasantness of illness, dealing instead with its emotional scars, the worries and fears, but skipping ahead past the actual dying. However, I remain troubled by a recurring theme in this play, which is the characters' choosing a lie over the truth, albeit with good intent. Lies wait to be found out; truths simply are. And this action is a bit too central to the play for me to completely look past it. Looking near it, though, I like the non-linear fluidity of the narrative, the idea that these three women perpetually haunt the same space, whether they are physically in the room together or no. The play's tagline is "We are the stories we tell ourselves;" I would addend that with "and the people we carry with us."

Cast: While the accent work is uneven and the intended age of the three women is particularly unclear to me, the emotional honesty of these three actresses is deeply affecting. As the healer Meryl, Chelsea J. Smith brings a calming, grounded presence to the space. Even in her grief and anger, she cannot help but give strength to those around her. Randa Karambelas's Lisa balances the character's deep fear with her intense desire to live an ordinary life, and her growth to strength and confidence is a powerful arc. Meryl's girlfriend, Hannah, seems perhaps a thankless part against these two, but Elissa Klie attacks the role with gusto, so that we love her as much as she loves Meryl, and feel the depth of her loss and sorrow.

Design: Jeff Modereger's set, a clean white curving space, is the perfect canvas for Driscoll Otto's celestial projections and Diana Duecker's lighting (as well as Lisa's chalk drawings). Sophie Schneider's costumes are busy and detailed, clearly noting to what worldviews the characters belong (long, drapey patterned dresses and jangling jewelry for Meryl and Hannah, very new age, versus the more practical solid colors of Lisa, older and settled).


Running: Now playing at The Workshop Theatre (Little Spoon, Big Spoon Productions) - Opening: February 23, 2018. Closing: March 10, 2018.
Category: straight play
Length: 1 hour, no intermission. (though fair warning: we started 20 minutes late the night I saw it)

Creative Team

Playwright: Mark Ravenhill
Director: John Dapolito
Designers: Jeff Modereger (Set), Sophie Schneider (Costume), Diana Duecker (Lighting), Alex Duncker (Sound), Driscoll Otto (Projection).
Cast: Chelsea J. Smith, Randa Karambelas, Elissa Klie.

Randa Karambelas and Chelsea J. Smith as Lisa and Meryl. Photo by
David Fletcher.

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