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BWW Review: Theatreworks' Haunting New Adaptation of GHOSTS

Murray Ross' adaptation of Ghosts distills Henrik Ibsen's three-act play into a brisk, intermission-free 100 minutes. A concession to shorter attention spans? Perhaps, but Ross' primary focus here is maintaining an uninterrupted pace as the events of the play hurtle towards their inevitable tragedy, brought about by a past long-concealed but ultimately inescapable.

The central figure of Ghosts, Helen Alving (Sharon Andrews), is a kindred spirit to Nora Helmer, the heroine of Ibsen's previous play A Doll's House. Critics didn't much like the ending of that one, insisting that Nora had no right to be walking away from her marriage vows, and it's easy to imagine Ibsen wrote Mrs. Alving as a rebuttal. Both women are trapped in unhappy marriages, and both leave their husbands-but while Nora's story ends with the slamming of a door, Helen's begins with a persuasion to return and work to reform her dissolute husband. The best she can do is hide his debauchery from society, and it is the gradual exposure of this lie that undoes her and those she cares about.

These revelations unfold on Russell Parkman's elegant, minimalist set, with stark white doorways framing a space of gauzy drapes and a reflective black floor, evoking the play's central theme of the things which haunt and cling to our lives. Andrews is likewise elegant and captivating as Mrs. Alving, particularly in her subtle, deep-rooted agony as she recalls the shame of her husband's behavior. Most of the impact of the production comes from her scenes with her longtime friend Pastor Manders (Dan Mason) and her son Oswald (Christian O'Shaughnessy). Manders is the voice of social authority in the play, the advocate for "keeping up appearances" and doing what is deemed right and acceptable, and Mason gives him a well-meaning bluster as he holds determinedly to his ideals as they are increasingly challenged by Helen's revelations. O'Shaughnessy is magnificent as the "prodigal son" returned home, his easy Bohemian attitude giving way to increasing despair and physical breakdown as he suffers from the one thing he received from his father: syphilis.

Yes, the disease is not communicable by genetics, and this knowledge can make Ghosts feel a bit dated, a relic of the time when merely mentioning the illness onstage was a subject of great controversy. But the themes of putting up a good front for society, of a thin veneer of propriety masking repulsive veniality, and the double standard that expects women to sacrifice their dignity for men whose crimes are all too easily excused by others remain every bit as relevant now as they were then. Just ask Anna Duggar.

GHOSTS plays at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater now through November 8th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 with matinees Saturdays at 2pm and Sundays at 4pm. Due to the nature of the production, there will be absolutely no late seating. For tickets, contact the box office at 719-255-3232 or visit theatreworkscs.org.


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From This Author Christi Esterle

Christi Esterle is a Colorado native, geek, and a theater fan ever since she saw her older cousin performing in a high school production of (read more...)