The Oracle Theatre presents
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
'When a house grows older, it molders. When people are together for a longtime in a house, they go mad.' The Oracle Theatre presents GHOST SONATA, a chamber play by August Strindberg. Chamber plays are a genre Strindberg made popular in the early 1900's. They are composed of three acts, small cast and minimal set. Leaning away from structured plot driven shows, chamber plays are artistic expressions to invoke thought. For GHOST SONATA, the intrigue stems from a house of characters. The decrepit man manipulates people from his wheelchair. The student crushing on a cupboard of statues and the Colonel's daughter. The lady mummy thinking she is a parrot living in the closet. The maid creeping around with a vile of poison. Not one, but two butlers enslaved to the old man in warped defeatism. A cook sucking the nourishment out of the meals she serves. The characters coexist in this house of misfortune. Snippets of life stories are introduced by a character about himself or another. Flashes of audio visual images enhance the moments. The audience spends eighty minutes looking for clues to solve the mysterious comings and goings. 'As for what's going on in this house, I don't know.' The butler may have not done it but he certainly called it. GHOST SONATA is an abstract tale of past indiscretions illustrated by an eccentric collection of people, who may or may not be dead.
Max Truax directs the chaos with an elegant flair. Shadows, masks, projected imagery are used to heighten the intrigue. Long before the show starts, Rich Logan (the old man) is onstage establishing the old man as sickly feeble. This adds to the bafflement later as Logan continues to garner strength as the tyrant controlling the dollhouse. Federico Rodriquez (the student) parallels the audience's experience in wide-eyed innocence to the bizarre surroundings. Under Truax's direction, characters mime each other in haunting synchronicity. The lingering duality adds to the phantom-like illusion that the story is about ghosts. In a climax to the oddity, two characters exchange apparel on stage and transform into each other. So, are they the same person? Mindslide!
Was the old man a vampire? Was he also the cook? Or was he sleeping with the cook and fathered the Colonel's daughter? Was he the Colonel? Or the student? Finding out the old man's name is Hummel and has a dresser of figurines, I even theorized this was possibly all a ceramics history lesson. A hundred years ago, GHOST SONATA was the 'Lost' party banter. Are they alive? Are they in purgatory atoning for past sins? Why can't they leave the house (island)? What's up with the bad father connection? Will the student (Jack) and the daughter (Kate) end up together? Experiencing GHOST SONATA is eighty minutes of actively trying to connect the dots before the finale without the aid of chat rooms of theory. And just like with 'Lost,' I don't know what's going on but I do appreciate unique storytelling illustrated with engaging acting.