Posted by lemonjelly on:
Henrik Ibsen, the father of modern theater, creator of plays frought with scandalous commentary on 19th century moral ideals, perhaps he's also the father of modern reality tv?
I caught the latest from the Ensemble Theatre Company, Ghosts, and was torn between feeling disgust of Pastor Manders (played by Gregory North) and his misogynistic narcissism, or the sleaziness of Jacob Engstrand (played by Michael Rothhaar), and recognizing that this is what can make for good acting. Whenever the pastor spoke I began to image a thought bubble above the other actors, saying "christ, what an asshole." I squirmed, and yet...the intermission and conclusion came faster than expected.
The play was intense, dramatic, and if you can set aside the dated sense of taboo, had plenty of the aforementioned uncomfortable scandal and misguided moral ideals.
The story takes place in the home of widow Helen Alving (played by Maureen Silliman) on the eve of dedicating a new orphanage that's been funded by the wealth of her deceased husband. Although the cause seems noble, Alving reveals that it is a coverup for husband's despicable behavior throughout their marraige, and that the orphanage exists to keep her son Osvald (Wyatt Fenner) from inheriting anything related to his father. Unfortunately, Osvald has inherited something more tragic from his father that Mrs. Alving could not protect him from - a venereal disease (oh dear! don't let the neighbors know). The ghosts emerge throughout the play as haunting reminders of futile sacrifices the characters make, the different levels of forbidden love from past to present, and emotions suppressed for the sake of public reputation, perceived morality and the greater good of god.
I found the character of Mrs. Alving to be the most powerful, as she has the greatest insight and intelligence to understand all the events taking place around her, but is frustratingly bound by male society and her "duty" to act properly within it. She has to make hard decisions against her dignity and nature as a person and a mother. The lights on the stage go down before we can see how she resolves her final challenge.
Reflecting on the play, I think about two things. First, it's a story, I know! But stories of family remind me of my own family, and how simple, undramatic and, frankly, boring we are. No philandering, no strife, no scandal, no disease, no divorce. And second, I'm pretty darn grateful for that.
Ghosts is directed by Jonathan Fox for the Ensemble Theatre Company, and runs at the Alhecama Theatre through 24 April.
914 Santa Barbara Street (behind Zaytoon and Playa Azul)
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Go with friends. It's better than losing a night in front of the tv watching Real Housewives and the Situation.