A guy I know reads auras and sees past lives. He told me once that a weeping ancestor is always nearby me. I find that intriguing. The connectivity of it all. There is a certain comfort knowing dead family members like to hang with me. That their past links to my present. That we are all apart of the same journey at different times. All that nonsense makes sense to me on a philosophical level because I do believe in ghosts.
Strange Tree Group, in conjunction with DCA Storefront Theatre, presents the world premiere of THE SPIRIT PLAY. It’s Chicago in the 1870’s. An upper crust group has gathered to talk. Parents want to talk to their daughter. A son wants to talk to his father. A husband wants to talk to his wife. What’s the problem? The daughter, father and wife are dead. Cue the medium! Ghost whispers have arrived in Chicago. The brother and sister duo promise to conjure up the beloved past. In the darkness, the pair use their bag of tricks to haunt the house. The seance spooks the guests. Everything is going according to scam when a skeptic arrives. Before he can discredit the paranormal activity, his wife intervenes... his dead wife. THE SPIRIT PLAY enchants with enough charm to raise the dead.
Playwright Emily Schwartz pens an endearing tale of love lost in death. Schwartz creates a variety of characters grieving a relationship in their life. Through organic party banter, we piece together the backstory of the guests. Schwartz effectively weaves into the mourning a trio of cons. There is a bittersweet twist with the crypt-ers. Under the direction of Jimmy McDermott, the talented ensemble makes me a believer. An obtuse Scott Cupper (Hubert) hosts the soirée with grandiose buffoonery. Cupper amuses as the stooge hitting on and setting up his guests. Kate Nawrocki (Jane) illuminates as the mysterious clairvoyant. Nawrocki has this untouchable radiance until she tries to really connect with a person. Her interactions with Bob Kruse (Mr. Tennant) are beautifully tender-hearted. Trying to rescue each other, Nawrocki and Kruse captivate with a supernatural linkage.
Scenic Designer Joe Schermoly carves out a Victorian home for the occult shin-dig. The detail is impressive with the jagged cut-out frame oozing caulking. The graveyard circles the house to add a layer of lifeless intrigue. My only issue with this entire play was the intricate set had a back foyer. Two apparition scenes were staged in the corner of that cubbyhole. Even practically laying on Thtr Bob’s lap, I couldn’t see them. So, my advice is to get to THE SPIRIT PLAY before it vanishes on November 6th. And BEWARE of the seats closest to the door if you want to see ghosts!
Running Time: One hour and fifty minutes includes an intermission
At DCA Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph
Written by Emily Schwartz
Directed by Jimmy McDermott
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30
Sundays at 3pm
Thru November 6th
Production photograph courtesy of Tyler Core.