I’ve Seen a Ghost (writer)

Michael Hollinger’s play Ghost-Writer, receiving its regional premier at the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, surely had some great tech behind it last night, including especially Matthew Callahan’s sound design. Everything was a little bit of perfect, deliberate and deliberative, yet finally I left feeling unsatisfied.


ETC's flyerI think the pastel tones of the set, and the tendency of the lighting to be very soft even as it waxed and waned, lent it an air of antiquity in keeping with the setting (early 20th century, in the placid studio of a well-known novelist named Franklin Woolsey, played by Dennis Parlato) but it also made you crave for more amplitude, a larger canvas. So did the script. A single character--Myra the typewriter girl, played by Annie Fitzpatrick--has easily 3/4 of the lines, and as a proper young lady who shuttles through 20 years of history with little real character development she is not afforded enough scope to be breathtaking. The author allows for a competent performance, and that's what we got: it's a "safe" production of a "safe" play--you could take your granny without worrying that she might faint. No catharsis.

I wondered whether the direction of D. Lynn Meyers would have been much aided by adding a dramaturg to the team, but in the end I have to lay this little failure (or qualified success) at Hollinger’s door. Don’t get me wrong: the guy’s a serious artist groping his way toward a moving historical play; this just isn’t it yet. Chapel Hill Playmaker’s production of his Opus a couple seasons back was memorable, but Hollinger’s still finding his voice.  (Whoa, I recognize that problem.)  I should add that the character of Vivian Woolsey, the novelist’s husband played by Lourelene Snedeker, ought to be a spoiler but never rises much above caricature as the jealous wife.

So: nice theatre, and you have to love their attention to detail.  Take your granny.


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