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a Drama
by Henrik Ibsen, translated by William Archer

COMPANY : Theatre Arts Guild
VENUE : Marvin Cole Auditorium [WEBSITE]
ID# 4023

SHOWING : April 15, 2011 - April 24, 2011



Mrs. Alving is dedicating an orphanage in the memory of her deceased husband, whom we soon discover was a vile and lecherous man. The play revolves around Mrs. Alving’s sick and afflicted son, Oswald, and his obsession with Regina, their maid. It is literally the “sins of the father” made manifest. Mrs. Alving desperately tries to save her son’s soul, and his body, before it is too late.

Director Barbara Cole Uterhardt
Regina Engstrand Taylor Branton
Mrs. Helen Alving Gisele Frame
Jacob Engstrand Michael Heck
Pastor manders Nathan Hesse
Oswald Alving Chris Kitterman
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by playgoer
Saturday, May 28, 2011
The Theatre Art Guild's production of "Ghosts" at Georgia Perimeter College boasts a wonderful set by Lizz Dorsey. Henrik Ibsen's script makes note of a fjord, and the backdrop shows the far wall of a canyon-like fjord, painted with Nordic splashes of color like an Edvard Munch landscape. It gives the impression of a walled-in locale that still allows vistas of an open sky. This acts as visual underpinning of Oswald Alving's life, since he has returned from the far world to his mother's house and her stifling presence. Lighting by Mike Post that suggests moonlight and dawn enhances the effect of the backdrop.

The house in front of the backdrop is decorated with subtly asymmetrical trim combining the severity of Scandinavian architecture with hints of Victorian gingerbread. It establishes the location and time period of the play. The raked stage has a few pieces of furniture placed on it, and the few walls have small paintings. A large space in the center allows a view into the glass-walled solarium that overlooks the fjord.

While the set is lovely, its design works against the script in a couple of regards. On either side, there is a doorway covered with a red curtain. The script has a couple of references to closing "the door," in response to which the maid pulls a curtain. It seems odd that the clunky translation wasn't altered to fit the set. More disturbingly, the climactic scene of the show has Oswald blocking his mother from exiting the room. In the large open space in the center of the stage, this becomes comically improbable. The artificiality of the moment drew titters from the audience, which is not the effect the director should have been after.

I'm not sure that the director had full control over the actors either. By and large, they give superficial performances. Mrs. Helen Alving is a widow who apparently has kept her husband's business running for years. As Gisele Frame plays her, she is a doting mother and little else. Some hints of a stronger woman, one who can hold her own in the business world, would have added interest to the character.

Taylor Branton, playing the relative/maid Regina, starts the show with a scene with her supposed father, played by Michael Heck. The translation by William Archer betrays its nineteenth-century origins and sounds stiltedly poetic, at least at first. While both actors portray their characters well, the language does not sound natural in their mouths. Over time, the style of the language seems less odd, so it's the first two we hear who bear the brunt of the style problems. By the time Chris Kitterman arrives as Oswald, his language seems unremarkable stylistically. The content of the play is engrossing enough that it draws the audience in.

Nathan Hesse, who plays the middle-aged Pastor Manders, is actually a student. Consequently, he is mismatched in age with Gisele Frame. The sparks that should show between them just aren't possible. It is once again a case of the surface being there, with few depths of the characters explored.

The notes in the program do a wonderful job of explaining the play and its cultural and sociological references. The hereditary syphillis that lies at the center of the story may have shocked people in Ibsen's time, but it's so subtly referred to in the text that many audience members would miss the references without the help of the program.

"Ghosts" is one of Ibsen's masterpieces, and it's a privilege to be able to see this play in a professional-looking environment. The age-appropriate casting of Taylor Branton and Chris Kitterman adds a bit of attractive human scenery to the delightful set, and the costumes by Jim Alford also add to the visual beauty of the production. This is a lovely production to see. If only there were more acting depth in the portrayals of Mrs. Alving and Pastor Manders, along with a less off-putting translation, this would truly be a winning production. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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