BWW Review: Longacre Lea's THE INTERSTELLAR GHOST HOUR at The Callan Theatre
In Kathleen Akerley's "Interstellar Ghost Hour," the latest fanciful play from Longacre Lea, an astronaut travels back through time and space to arrive in her deceased parents home to get some answers.
"Do you wish I had mourned you differently?" she keeps asking specters of her parents, who naturally slough off the inquiry. What does it matter? We're dead now anyway. Don't worry your little helmeted head.
While traveling back, though, she appears in her childhood home as a ghost, which presents a problem to the current homeowner, who calls not so much a ghostbuster as a spiritual consultant. At any rate, it makes it tough to sell the house, though a couple of prospective buyers (the parents once more) are only to happy to take part in a seance.
Communicating one or two strong ideas a tall order for a lot of productions, but Akerley's challenge is having way too many ideas. All of them make their way into the production, if not through the talented ensemble on hand, at least through the professionally shot videos (by Séamus Miller) that appear on the oversized TV set that looms over the action.
Do we really need a malevolent Eastern cooking show or a cop saga in the middle of all this? As entertaining as they are, probably not. But they add another element of surrealism and surprise in the show, which ends up being about two and a half times as long as the promised "Interstellar Ghost Hour."
Under Akerley's own direction, the communication of her weighty script is in the best hands.
Christine Alexander excels as the inquiring astronaut, tough externally but vulnerable when dealing with intricate dealings with her parents.
As the folks, Julie Weir and Scott Ward Abernathy are quite strong, able to replicate the pair at various ages, from playful young marrieds to elders who can't quite stay awake on their favorite easy chair.
Ryan Sellers is good, too, as the wary homeowner who sees the effects of the ghost in books moving and such, but not the ghost herself. And Dylan Arredondo is nothing if not versatile, moving from the reality show cook to nervous real estate salesman to a paramour trying to do everything right.
The show works best comedically when M. Temidayo Akibu is on stage as the eccentric spiritual mediator. With her, the show coalesces into the tragicomedy at its heart.
But space is vast, and so is this play. Elizabeth Jenkins McFadden's set design, with a modernist giving room atop a space nebula floor plan, works well, as does Neil McFadden's electronic sound design. Lynly Saunders' costume design includes a plausible space suit with interior lights.
Together they create a world that contains multitudes, but might have been better served by a sharper focus.
Running time: Two hours, 30 minutes with one intermission..
Photo credit: Christine Alexander in "The Interstellar Ghost Hour." Photo by Longacre Lea.
"The Interstellar Ghost Hour" by Longacre Lea plays at Catholic University's Callan Theatre, 3801 Harewood Rd NE, through Sept 9. Tickets at 202-460-2188 or online.