The Ghost Sonata
Written by August Strindberg
Directed by Jessica Carmichael
Starring Mari Chartier, Richard Lam, Ian Leung, Sereana Malani, Marie Nychka, Laura Raboud and Melissa Thingelstad
Runs Thursday, Sept. 20 – Saturday, Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m., preview on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m., matinée performance Thursday, Sept. 27 at 12:30 p.m.
Timms Centre for the Arts (87 Avenue and 112 Street)
Tickets $10 for students at the Timms Centre box office
“This is a strange house,” The Student exclaims nervously. “…It is bewitched.” A strange house indeed, brimming with illusion, grief, and as the play’s title suggests, ghosts. Brought to life by MFA director Jessica Carmichael, The Ghost Sonata is a captivating production that is both visually and psychologically stunning.
Adapted from the original 1907 script by Swedish playwright August Strindberg, Studio Theatre’s The Ghost Sonata begins following the mysterious collapse of a house the previous evening. The Student (Richard Lam) is recovering from the devastating incident when he catches the eye of The Old Man (Ian Leung).
After approaching The Student, The Old Man becomes aware that he is no ordinary boy — The Student is a “Sunday child,” meaning he has the ability to communicate with the dead, though he doesn’t realize it. The Old Man is entranced by The Student and lures him into his house where he meets The Mummy (Marie Nychka), The Dark Lady (Melissa Thingelstad) and the girl of his dreams, The Colonel’s Daughter (Sereana Malani). While the house is beautiful on the outside, The Student soon realizes that it’s actually on the brink of collapse, full of chaotic calm, death, longing and bleakness.
This surrealistic production of The Ghost Sonata is approached with an emphasis on physicality. There are numerous movement montages throughout the piece, which assist in fleshing out the characters and plot, as well as helping to provide a sense of unity to the play. The significance of physicality in the show is particularly notable in the performances of Thingelstad as The Dark Lady and Leung as The Old Man. The powerful, sweeping presence of Thingelstad provided an excellent contrast to the quirky physicality of Leung, whose strong performance revealed an occasional glimpse into the inner struggles of The Old Man.
Movement was also exemplified in the performance of the three Dream Figures (Janelle Jorde, Bailey MacPhee and Tori Switzer). These creature-like spirits embodied a multitude of personas in the play, and they did a beautiful job of seamlessly intertwining the montages and scene changes.
While the play is engrossing to watch, it’s also highly interpretive, requiring quite a bit of concentration in order to grasp a firm sense of the plot. Still, even in the moments where it’s not quite clear what is going on, the sense of confusion is transformed into fascination through powerful performances and beautiful stage imagery.
One of the more questionable elements of the play was the decision to use automated prop pieces. There were a few instances where pieces of furniture humorously zoomed about the stage to varying degrees of success. Despite whatever relevance there was behind this choice, the automated whirring sounds were distracting and took attention away from the performers.
Although it takes some effort to fully comprehend, The Ghost Sonata is a visually pleasing performance and well worth your time. The beautiful montages and commanding presence of the actors pulls the audience along an illusionary exploration of reality.
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