Thursday, April 24, 2008

Review – BFA 2008 – Final Productions - 4-1/2 stars (3 of 4)

“I’ll be your tree. You can be my bush.”
“Watch your mouth.”


Of the three new plays being performed in repertory, “When I Was A Ghost” is the weakest as a script. The performances are all still really solid, so for that reason it’s still worth seeing. The script itself is an interesting experiment in structure that allows for a lot of intriguing breakout moments for each of the actors involved. But all the pieces, written by Deborah Stein in collaboration with the ensemble, and abetted by director Lear Debessonet and dramaturgs Lauren Ignaut and Carla Steen, don’t ultimately add up to a satisfying whole.

The conceit is that there are six strangers, all stranded in an airport lounge in Iceland, each connected in some way to a singer who has mysteriously disappeared. The play returns a number of times to the opening sequence of the people, waiting in their own isolation. Each time it returns, the audience has learned a little more in the intervening time about one or more of the characters, and can look at them with new eyes. Other scenes are seen from more than one angle, through a different character’s perspective each time, each time with a different impact.

Abby Banaby (Whitney Hudson, in possession of a rafter-shaking set of pipes) is all too-willing to put her music career in the hands of opportunistic agent Sam Sames (Courtney Roche), and ditch her reluctant singing partner Davis Truck (Daniel Jimenez) in the process. Just as quickly as Abby enjoys her rise to fame and its perks, she flames out and flakes out, and vanishes. A childhood friend Dash (Kelsey Olson) embarks on a journey to seek Abby out, wherever she may be. A blue-collar worker Dotie (Sam Bardwell) is inspired by Abby’s voice to try and push his own young daughter into the spotlight as a way of trying to improve the family’s fortunes. A devoted fan Lou (Grant Heuke) channels his idol’s talent in a big musical number. Meanwhile the airline ticket agent Dasha (Christine Weber) harbors either secrets or delusions about her own past as everything from figure skater to secret agent.

There’s a great moment at the beginning when ordinary sounds – a computer keyboard, a phone, someone eating yogurt, another person tapping absently on a guitar case – all blend into a rhythmic force that drives the play into its world of music. The play could have used more smooth transitions like that. Things like the James Bond and VH-1 Behind The Music parodies and the lonely fan’s big musical number were fun, but as seeming non sequiturs they didn’t always add to the audience’s understanding of who these people were, or why they cared, or why should we. There are the bones of an interesting idea lurking in “When I Was A Ghost.” It just doesn’t seem fully formed yet. Still, it’s…


When I Was A Ghost” has only three more performances before it closes this weekend - Thursday, April 24 at 7:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27 at 1pm (but I believe Sunday’s performance may already be sold out). The plays are paired up in different combinations on Thursday through Saturday, and all three play on Sunday. Tickets are $10, or $7 for students and seniors. Reservations and more information at or by calling 612-377-2224. Performances are in the Dowling Studio on the 9th floor of the new Guthrie theater complex at 818 South 2nd Street in Minneapolis.

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