Collaborative Artists Ensemble presents “Afterlife: a ghost story” at the Avery Schreiber Playhouse, running from October 13 - November 12.
Written by Steve Yockey, directed by Steve Jarrard
Halloween is just around the corner, so there are a fair amount plays about with supernatural themes, which is great and to be expected.
However, don’t let the title of this play fool you…it’s no spooky romp through the frivolity of the season…oh no.
Joshua James Knightley, Meg Wallace
“Afterlife: a Ghost Story” follows a young couple as they arrive back at their home after what seems like a few months away. The house sits on the beach and there’s a storm rolling in, so the plan they had was to prepare it for the bad weather, put up the storm shutters and unplug the fridge, that sort of thing. But of course, that’s not really why they are there.
This had been their home, a place they loved until their son drowned weeks ago in the sea that now pounds on the beach. While they attempt to pack the house, each of them drifts off to their own private world of mourning, surrounded by the memories and the pain.
Edgar Allan Poe IV, Joshua James Knightley
The wife, Danielle, is played with quiet and beautiful sorrow by Meg Wallace. She is completely bereft and seems simply unable to overcome her loss. Her husband Connor tries to fill his time with the task at hand, but his control belies his own broken soul and Joshua James Knightley manages to play the role with a dignity and a subtly wrought void that is tremendously touching. Both these actors project their world of tragedy in subtle and intimate ways as they tiptoe around each other, trying to hold it all together.
But it becomes too much for them both and, as the weather worsens, they forget the packing and wallow in the darkness. Danielle thinks she hears her son, still calling for her from the waves and Connor tries to push her to let him go, which of course she could never do. As they argue, the house is struck by the storm and they are swept away.
The second act begins with a young man in a strange house wondering how he got there and we are all transported to a totally different world. Connor is there and trapped, sightless and unable to get up, and Danielle is also there, finding her way to some odd tea shop where she meets two women and stays a while. It’s all extremely unsettling. Are they dead? Are they dreaming? Or it this real and what happened before a dream? This play is nothing if not open to interpretation. In this second world there are gods and monsters and people losing their memories or finding them again…oh and very large birds ominously hanging around.
Meg Wallace, Mary Burkin, Georgan George
This is a play about ghosts yes, but not of the floating phantasm variety.
These ghosts are of this couple's own conjuring, there because they need them to be. It’s as if the pain is not enough, they need to poke at it and peel it away from their skin or simply surrender to it entirely.
Those of us who have experienced loss, and most of us have in one way or another, can connect deeply to this play. The way the characters distance themselves from each other, the way they can’t really look at each other without quickly looking away. And in the second act, the other worldly occupants are brilliantly played by Buddy Handleson as the boy, Mary Burkin as proprietress of the tea rooms and Georgan George as a slightly deranged sewing woman and the transcendental Edgar Allan Poe IV as a distinctly untrustworthy mailman and a nasty, big, black bird.
It’s a strange play, sad and oddly familiar, like a dream you had that you can’t quite shake. The staging is excellent and extremely inventive, but not too much to get in the way of the actors. This ‘afterlife’ is a cold and aching place. There’s no relief for them here, only a little guidance to accept a way forward. Is it death or justice. They rightly blame themselves for their son's drowning. I think it is whatever you might imagine for yourself in the same predicament. But it is profoundly moving and darkly sad, not horror but in some ways horrifying. And very, very good…
If you are feeling moody then head over to the Avery Schreiber Playhouse.
But hurry, “Afterlife; a Ghost Story” is only on until November 12.
Meg Wallace, Joshua James Knightly, Buddy Handleson, Jael Saran, Mary Burkin, Georgan George, Edgar Allen Poe IV
Steve Jarrard - Production Design
Zarah Husein - Sound Design
Jason Ryan Lowen - Lighting Design
Tonya Richardson - Graphic Design
Meg Wallace - Puppet Design
Jim Martyka - Publicity