BWW Review: GHOST at Stage One Family Theatre
A review by Jason Roseberry
Ghost, a faithful adaptation of the novel by Jason Reynolds, tells the story of Castle "Ghost" Crenshaw (played by the always-excellent Crystian Wiltshire), an earnest seventh grader who finds himself unexpectedly recruited onto the track team thanks to the encouragement of Coach (Louis Robert Thompson). Ghost is haunted by the memories of an abusive father, and a large part of this play's journey is watching how the discipline of sports and the support of friends and mentors help Ghost keep his life moving in a positive direction.
Although it is a family show, Ghost isn't afraid to go straight at big/important issues such as childhood trauma and systemic poverty. When it comes to successfully navigating the track team, Ghost has more natural talent than maybe anyone else. However, we witness how his lack of access to basic equipment such as running shoes, practice clothes, and even a simple water bottle puts him on the verge of losing everything he worked so hard to gain. Ghost is lucky enough to find mentors such as Coach and Mr. Charles (Paul Kerr) who keep him from falling off the map, but it isn't difficult for the audience to see how other kids in a similar situation could end up much worse off.
Scenic Designer Tom Tutino's set is simple, yet striking. A graffiti wall, a racetrack, and metal tables and benches allow for seamless transitions and effective blocking by the director (Keith McGill). The sound design by Corey Harrison is equally effective and gives the audience an inside feeling for Ghost's moments of elation and troubling memories.
Wiltshire's Ghost has all of the confidence, charm, and charisma to keep us comfortable and engaged as our narrator for the show. I would like to have seen this interpretation of Ghost include more of the emotional colors Ghost shares when describing his feelings. Most notably, the anger (red) that is always simmering very close to the surface, and threatening to pull Ghost from his new path. This dynamic certainly amplifies the dramatic tension and serves as a vehicle for some cathartic moments towards the end of the novel. Wiltshire's Ghost appears to be fairly content, happy, and steady throughout the play - although Wiltshire shines during a scene when Ghost revisits an old stockroom where he and his mother hid from his father after a traumatic event.
The cast is rounded out by Ashley N. Hildreth (Patina/Tia), Charity Means (Terri/Teacher), Jordan White (Lu), and Trey Antonio Wright (Sunny/Brandon). This is a group of talented and agile actors who inhabit several different roles throughout the production.
For me, Ghost slows down as it approaches the finish line instead of leaning in for the win. While it aspires to be the 100-meter dash (Ghost describes it as "the main event"), it ends up more like the 200. Still, Ghost is an important story, and a very good production that kids (and adults) in any community need to see - not just for its non-preachy and relatable lessons on tolerance, empathy, and privilege, but also for a model of possibility of what the rewards of pushing through barriers and comfort zones can bring.
September 28 & October 5, 2:00 and 5:00 p.m.
StageOne Family Theatre
The Kentucky Center, Bomhard Theater
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202