See it if
You're up for good costumes holding up a too-long script made indecipherable by an inaudible cast. Plot and character points lost upstage.
Don’t see it if
You're expecting a clear plot, actors projecting or some idea of Amsterdam, 1943 or the Resistance in WW II.
Who knew that a long night in 1943 Amsterdam could sound like Depression-era Memphis or New Orleans? And with a rap tune thrown in to boot? Only the three-word program note gives a clue.
It's difficult to know what playwright and lead Erika Phoebus had in mind here, since the cast, quite often drowned out by the competent if weirdly joyless onstage band, didn't project vocally, leaving plot and motivations muddled. Isaac Byrne's direction seemed to take a back seat to Phoebus's energy, leaving all lax, long and unfocused.
Still, the concept of Resistance assassins as "rusalkas" — seductive, dangerous female spirits (often mermaids) luring young men to their untimely ends — according to myth, is novel. Too bad, the dip into melodrama, compounded by many things, including that extra pistol in the prologue — "Chekov's gun" may be an old the theatrical concept, but it's certainly sound.
Phoebus and Elizabeth Kensek were well matched, even if Kensek seemed lost at times, and T.E. Hackett on drums held all together.
Intense ensemble performances
See it if:
You're up for an emotionally intense, affecting & raw but ultimately cathartic drama about cancer with an unusually brilliant female cast.
Don't see it if:
No reason not to, unless honest & heartfelt emotion onstage disturbs, cancer is too close or recent, or you really need a linear timeline.
An at times difficult yet welcome conversation about cancer—dealing with it, living with it, dying of it, surviving it—this Ghost Story is more than worth seeking out for its amazing female cast.
Randa Karambelas, Elissa Klie and Chelsea Smith deliver terrific performances and are all in—present, intense, totally convincing; their give and take, in-the-moment honesty and controlled emotional chaos ricocheting from stage to audience and back again remarkable and heartbreaking. And clear; you might never think about cancer the same way again.
Though not a stitch is dropped, there's a lot of nakedness onstage in this emotionally intense and truthful production, Big Spoon, Little Spoon proving once again that some of the best & strongest work in the city quietly goes on in the Off- Off- companies all around us. This is more good work by a fearless and gutsy, socially conscious company that should be supported and seen; by all means, go.
Amazing performance, Edgy, Challenging, Intelligent, Absorbing
See it if You want to see a seamless & engaging tour de force by Fraser, fully on, committed & inventive, to the smallest gesture, & in total control.
Don't see it if You have no patience, don't like monologues, solo plays or the dark — literal or figurative.
Also Alison Fraser delivers a quiet, subtle and thoroughly engaging tour de force here, a virtual master class on risk, going all in, fully inhabiting a role and commanding attention for the duration of this difficult script.
Seated in the dark for its 90 minute length, Fraser's every small gesture, curl of toe, shift of weight has meaning and propels the narrative action, and she manages to totally inhabit several characters, each distinctly etched by gesture and small adjustments of voice. Even the voice of her main character is layered with depth and hint of a varied past. It's a remarkable performance that carries, makes plausible and almost pulls off the end, the weakest part of the evening, and the script.
One will either love it or hate it. It's an interesting idea, well done visually with great costumes; it looks terrific and certainly aspires; however — the abstract score was pretty awful, especially when sung in English, both not the most lyrical of vehicles for an opera. A Spanish libretto might have helped, at least a little; in English it simply bordered on a Loony Tunes parody of opera. The score would make a great stand alone concert piece, though. Still, there aren't two memorable notes or melodies in the entire thing, an odd sort of accomplishment. I kept wishing it to be an operetta instead, and all that kept running in mind at intermission was Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life.
Well intentioned, Lifeless, Flat, Cramped, Slow
See it if You're a fan of Shirley Lauro's work & care to hear what sounds like an uncut reading of her script in an evening that's more tell than show
Don't see it if You don't know the story; much is belabored & much won't be clear. Also, if you're familiar with any other versions, this will fall short.
Also Director Gordon has managed to make the worst of an awkward and difficult space, for the most part trapping the cast onto a cramped, noisy three-step platform along the house-left wall. Huddled together at times in often severe lighting, the young actors often seem left to their own devices.
As directed, they stomp around the set, repeatedly acting out unnecessary physical details (carrying benches as gurneys, pantomiming bandages, etc.) and endlessly sorting out obvious, needless small costume changes, they never cohere into an ensemble of any sort, or even seem to come to terms with the audience—is there a fourth wall or not?
Also, for a company whose notes claim a heavy focus on sound, there's a distinct lack of music, the unifying language of the 60's and the main reason for the Maryjo character.
Unusual for two productions of a play to run in a season, this version pales next to the earlier thought-through Little Spoon Big Spoon one; it's an educational, unfortunate contrast.
© René Grayre All rights reserved