Halloween is around the corner and the play presented by Akvavit Theatre, Ghosts & zombies, written by Henrik Ibsen and Gustav Tegby and translated by Chad Eric Bergman, is the perfect way to get into the dark festive spirit of this holiday.
Ghosts & zombies is an interpretation of the classic Norwegian play Ghosts, but with a hair-raising twist. The first thing we are told as we are about to enter the theatre is a warning, blood is to be shed and the audience is about to witness it. For first-row seated spectators, protection is provided, as nobody is safe from what is about to happen. If you are a fan of loud gunshots during a play, this is definitely something you will enjoy.
Zombies are important in this play, ghosts are haunting the house, but the spotlight is mainly directed towards the living and their existential crisis, the need to control the unknown and to hide the socially unacceptable reality.
The play starts with Regine opening up a fish and using the guts to feed whatever it is found in a big, chained, wooden box on the side of the stage and continues with her father coming on stage to convince her to leave Mrs. Alving´s property in the country side and help him run a sailors’ inn in the city. But for Regine that is out of the question. As we will soon find out, she has strong reasons not to leave.
The secrets of the widow
Mrs. Alving (Marsha Harman), preparing to open an orphanage in her late husband´s memory and happy to have her son back after a long absence, is not exactly what you would expect form a grieving widow. The shadows of her past and present reveal themselves little by little, as Mrs. Alving frees herself form the burden of her secrets.
Akvavit Stages this story in an intimate theatre
The size of this theatre, the immediate proximity of the audience to the stage creates a feeling of intimacy and the feeling that we are all part of the action. There is a sense of complicity between actors and spectators and this connection is maintained during the two hours and twenty minutes of this show.
Dark and hilarious
Although this is a drama, the dialogues are witty and hilarious, and the actors who masterly embody the characters make us laugh once and again during the whole representation. Metaphors about life, death and the in-between are a means of showing how everybody has skeletons in the closet and how they always find a way of getting back to you.
The humor is present at all times and it is wonderfully interpreted by these talented actors. It is so diverting to see Regine (Almanya Narula) roll her eyes and playfully pass from seductive to childish, form angry to obedient, depending on who she has to deal with.
The holy and the pagan
Pastor Manders, excellently interpreted by Jeremy Trager, is divided between his faith and the reality found in Mrs. Alving´s house. The Pastor is a key character and his dialogues with Mrs. Alving are serious and funny at the same time. It is not right to laugh at someone’s drama, but there is something really comical about this character and the facial expressions of Jeremy Trager perfectly reflect the inner struggle of Pastor Manders to understand and accept the actual state of the things he is confronted to.
In this writer´s opinion, the initial dialogues are somewhat extensive, unnecessarily lengthening the play. But it must also be said that it soon evolves to faster paced scenes, surprising twists and engaging plot, making you want to know more and discover the final outcome of the situation.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Thru Sunday, October 29, 2017
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 4:00 pm
Photos: Karl Clifton-Soderstrom
Strawdog Theatre Company,
1802 W. Berenice,