BWW Review: GHOST QUARTET Transcends Theatre In This Hauntingly Evocative Production
It's a circular story that's both deeply complex and utterly simple. It's a puzzle that reveals itself, side by side and track by track, slowly and then all at once. There are moments of chaos, dissonance, and fury which battle with the quiet, solemn, tranquil ones. It's laden with feeling and will keep you guessing until the last light goes out; GHOST QUARTET isn't your typical night at the theatre - it's a completely sensory experience.
To put it simply, GHOST QUARTET contains multitudes, and in Crow's Theatre and Eclipse Theatre Company's production those multitudes shine in the same way a flashlight pointed through a kaleidoscope does.
Directed by Marie Farsi with music, text and lyrics by Tony-nominated composer Dave Malloy, GHOST QUARTET is a dreamlike chamber musical where several stories spin around one another, always coming back to the relationship between sisters Rose (Hailey Gillis) and Pearl (Kira Guloien). Both actors are exquisite in delivering the intricate, detailed pieces with great vocal and physical emotion. Gillis's honest, emotive voice makes numbers like "Starchild" wondrous, while Guloien's rich tone fills the room like warm honey.
Filling out the ensemble are Beau Dixon and Andrew Penner (Penner also acts as Music Director), who pull double-duty as several different characters as well as the production's main musicians (Penner on guitar, percussion, and kazoo; Dixon provides piano and harmonica accompaniment throughout). Dixon has a calming presence and smooth voice that works well with the occasional chaos of the narrative, where Penner's raspier voice gives numbers like "The Astronomer" some much appreciated edge.
Upon walking into the space, audiences are enveloped in balmy heat and the smell of incense; the set (set design by Patrick Lavender, who's also responsible for the gorgeous, timeless costumes and dynamic lighting design) looks as if an antique store exploded, all warm woods and woven rugs. The clash of metal scaffolding with natural elements - vines hung from the ceiling, dirt piled on the floor - lends itself to the clash within the narratives, as characters seem to exist in pastoral and urban settings simultaneously. The small touches added throughout create dozens of stunning visual moments and silhouettes, supported by lighting design that dances in the space between simple and ethereal.
Theatre done well should evoke something from an audience; GHOST QUARTET evokes everything in the most comfortably overwhelming manner. It builds feelings both nameable and unknown with each track - regardless of where you are in life, what you believe in, or how you feel about blending folk tales with realism, Malloy's lyrics are presented with such fervor by this ensemble that you will feel something.
Crow's Theatre and Eclipse Theatre Company's GHOST QUARTET runs through November 10 at Streetcar Crowsnest, 345 Carlaw Ave., Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.crowstheatre.com/whats-on/view-all/ghost-quartet
Photo credit: Dahlia Katz