Giving Up The Ghost
Playwright/Director Rivka Hartman
Limelight on Oxford until November 3
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
Shakespeare did it and many playwrights have since used the device of a ghostly presence to advance the plot in which only one of the other characters could see and hear the ghost.
Playwright Rivka Hartman also employs the character formula used by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen whose works included four main characters; there’s the educated leading man, his long-suffering wife, the ingénue and the alpha male. Also, one of Ibsen’s plays was Ghosts.
The recently-deceased Ben is in a coffin in the living room of the family home and wife Lana is a doctor who might or might not have had a role in her husband’s death. Like normal married couples who are still alive, when Ben rises from the coffin, they discuss the life and career of their daughter, Gemma and they talk about their past and the funeral arrangements.
Gemma has been offered a lucrative and rare academic position and she’s two minds about accepting it because her new mover and shaker fiancé, Jason, is about to migrate because of his business interests.
As Ben, Chris Orchard, who looked like a cross between Tim Ferguson from the Doug Anthony All Stars and Ross Higgins from Kingswood Country, had a strong stage presence in the small theatre and provided the perfect foil for Elaine Hudson’s Lara who went to emotional extremes at the slightest provocation.
As Gemma, Madeleine Withington was in the moment at all times and turned in an exceptional performance. Andrew Wang made Jason less of the formulaic alpha male and more of the metrosexual hipster who talks in acronyms. From my perspective, kudos goes to Rivka Hartman for casting an Asian actor a non-racially-specific role.
When the playwright is also the director, there’s the risk of unnecessary indulgences and some over-direction, but Giving Up The Ghost at Limelight on Oxford provides an ultimately enjoyable and engaging experience in an intimate theatrical space.
Packed into seventy-five minutes with no interval, it’s definitely worth checking out.