Friday, October 21, 2011

Ghosts, Penfold Theatre Company and Breaking String Theatre Company at Hyde Park Theatre, October 13 - November 5 (ALT Review 2)

Ghosts Penfold Theatre Breaking String Theatre Austin TX

by Michael Meigs

The Penfold-Breaking String joint production of Ghosts is a moody, beautiful piece. Its honesty to Ibsen's 1881 text is almost a disadvantage, for among we twentieth-first century chrononauts will be some who find inexplicable and inherently comic the restraint of his language. How quaint not to name the evils: prostitution, syphillis, debauchery, incest, spouse abuse, addiction, wifely duty, madness, social convention, obligatory purity for women, licensed libertinism for men . . . .

By retaining Ibsen's approach of creating in our minds the unnamed spectres which polite company will not name, director Graham Schmidt takes us back to the sharp blacks and whites of brittle European morality of the 19th century. Never mind that in our own day we indulge and are indulged by broad fields of gray and we celebrate the colors of experiment and diversity.

The subtle set designed by Ia Ensterë captures that world, with a sort of spider web of threads along the walls, wrapping the proper 19th century living space in an evocative indefinition. Costuming by Buffy Manners gives visual reinforcement to time and place -- from Mrs. Alving's gown to the opposed masculine visions of Pastor Manders' Norwegian cleric black and Oswald's muted extravagance.

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