Review: A putting revival of ‘Ghosts’ on the Odyssey suffers from lack of ensemble cohesion

Ghosts have been haunting drama for the reason that early days of Aeschylus. In all probability probably the most well-known of all is the ghost of Hamlet’s father, whose appearances in Shakespeare’s tragedy change because the play strikes from the standard revenge style of the primary act to the extra fashionable introspective mode during which it’s not all the time simple to differentiate what is going on strictly in Hamlet’s head and what’s taking place in goal actuality.

Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts” represents one other radical breakthrough within the potentialities of spectral encounters of the literary variety. What haunts the family on this basic of nineteenth century realism isn’t a lot the spirit of the useless, dissolute patriarch, Captain Alving, because the tonnage of household secrets and techniques buried within the dangerous religion and moribund morality of a shameful previous.

A night spent with Ibsen is inevitably going to ivolve a reckoning with evaded reality. One of many preeminent architects of contemporary drama, he up to date the well-made play by redeploying its melodramatic plotting for functions of psychological revelation.

Bart DeLorenzo’s manufacturing of “Ghosts,” now on the Odyssey Theatre, opts for Richard Eyre’s model of the play, which condenses the motion to a mere 90 minutes, no intermission. The tempo is as relentless as it’s cruel with out the expository padding to guard characters from a direct assault of their historical past.

Oswald Alving (Alex Barlas), a free-thinking younger artist who has been residing in Paris, has returned to Norway to stay along with his mom, Helene Alving (Pamela J. Grey). Stressed at residence, he begins a dalliance with the younger maid, Regina Engstrand (Viva Hassis Gentes), whose father, Jacob (J.Stephen Brantley), a salty reprobate, is attempting to amass funds for a sporting home for sailors that he hopes his enticing daughter will conform to work in.

Regina, who places on airs whereas spouting phrasebook French, needs nothing to do along with her degenerate dad. Her eyes are set on Oswald, whom she hopes will ask her to marry him. For causes that turn into shockingly clear sooner or later, their closeness discomfits Mrs. Alving, who’s busy making preparations with Reverend Manders (Barry Del Sherman) for the brand new orphanage she is establishing as a monument to her late husband.

This remaining act of hypocrisy is meant to inter as soon as and for all of the ugly residue of Captain Alvin, whose drunken philandering Mrs. Alving bore as a cross. She was suggested on this path by Manders, whom she liked and needed to go away her husband for. However standard piety urged the pastor to insist that she stay as much as her wifely responsibility, irrespective of that her husband grossly flaunted his infidelity.

Revealed in 1881 and first carried out the next 12 months, Ibsen’s “Ghosts” was notorious in its day for making hereditary syphilis an important factor of its plot. Bothered by the sins of his father, Oswald has returned residence extra out of medical necessity than homesickness. Mrs. Alving needs to start out with a clear slate along with her son, however the deceptions and compromises of her marriage refuse to relaxation peacefully within the grave with Captain Alving.

DeLorenzo, working with set designer Frederica Nascimento, lays out the rooms of the home in order that it’s potential to see Oswald sleeping as Mrs Alving and Manders overview enterprise particulars of the orphanage whereas rehashing their very own intimate historical past.

The openness of the ground plan lends a refreshing modernity to a play that bleeds previous the division of acts, in order that no matter occurs in a single scene reverberates in one other. “Ghosts” is devised as a collection of intense personal conversations. Characters are at cross-purposes with each other, however their listening is probably much more resonant than their talking.

Pamela J. Grey and Barry Del Sherman in “Ghosts” on the Odyssey Theatre.

(Cooper Bates)

This high quality of auditory aliveness is lacking from DeLorenzo’s manufacturing. The push to carry out an already compacted model of the play overruns the sluggish, subterranean motion of understanding that the characters bear.

The performing is at its best when Grey’s Mrs. Alving and Del Sherman’s Manders revaluate the choice they made years in the past to desert their love. Ibsen filters by means of their alternate important exposition. However much more, he offers a conflict of concepts between a lady who’s gaining perspective and data of herself and her society and a person who remains to be beholden to suffocating conventions.

Barlas has large stage magnetism, however he fails to attach with the opposite actors. It’s as if he’s performing for an audition tape. Gentes paints Regina in daring strokes but in addition appears extra involved with making an impression than responding to these round her, even her putative father (delivered to sneaky, devilish life by Brantley).

Henry James, in his commentaries on Ibsen, insightfully famous the “extraordinary process of vivification” that takes place when the playwright’s seemingly prosaic prose dramas are enacted. Eleonora Duse discovered within the performs the inspiration to create by means of her artwork a revolution in fashionable performing.

That dazzling mild is just flickeringly in proof on this new manufacturing of “Ghosts,” which resorts on the finish to directorial distractions maybe to compensate for the defective circuity of the ensemble. Below the X-ray of performing, “Ghosts” ought to expose the best way our actions invisibly interconnect us, irrespective of how strenuous our denials.


The place: Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, 4 p.m. Sundays. (Examine for exceptions.) Ends Oct. 23.

Tickets: $25-$40

Contact: (310) 477-2055, Ext. 2, or

Working time: 1 hour, half-hour

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