Theater Review: Ghosts

Classic works are so called because their content pertains to the human condition, and that applies from age to age.

'Ghosts' (photo credit: MAAYAN KAUFMAN)
(photo credit: MAAYAN KAUFMAN)
The most potent symbol in this Ghosts is the covered statue of Captain Alving, the absent presence in this tangle of lies and evasions.
It remains veiled throughout the 100 minutes of this not-really-necessary adaptation to the 21st century of a late 19th century melodrama.
Classic works are so called because their content pertains to the human condition, and that applies from age to age.
What changes is the perception of that content within the framework of the production, which here is that Helena Alving (Shiri Golan) suffers from battered wife syndrome, and from the shame-induced denial it entails.
Ghosts was published to uproar in 1881. Decent people didn’t talk about such things.
Helena is preparing for the inauguration of an orphanage dedicated to the memory of her husband. The community saw in them the perfect couple, but as Helena flatly tells pastor Manders (Amir Kriaf), Alving was a wife- and child-abusing lecher who died of syphilis.
That big lie haunts the play.
Regina Engstrand (Inbar Danon), whom Helena has brought up, doesn’t know she’s Alving’s bastard child and half sister to Osvald (Tom Hagi). Her adoptive father, carpenter (here contractor) Jacob Engstrand (Nir Menki) doesn’t know either. Nor does Osvald, who’s in love with her, and who’s inherited his father’s syphilis. As for Manders, he’ll do anything rather than face facts. Respectability is all.
Svetlana Berger’s contemporary patio set is appropriately dominated by a large screen.
Felice Ross’ lighting does not allow for shadows. Oren Dar’s costumes are subtly apt.
It all works, except that there’s sometimes awkwardness, as though the actors can’t quite swallow this 21st century Ghosts. That said the cast chomps the text like potato chips at a party. Kriaf’s humorless, small-souled Manders is a beautifully sanctimonious prig. Portraying Helena, Golan allows herself passion, but the pain that laces it is too contained. Hagi’s tormented Osvald builds pity and a growing empathy. Danon’s ambitious Regina is earthily vulgar but Menki’s sly, pious, thieving Engstrand needs a bit more relish to ring true.
And, as usual for a Ricklin production, his Ghosts resonates long after the actors take their bows.