Review: The Ghost Is Here (Vitalist Theatre)

| January 15, 2012
Hank Hilbert, Dwight Sora, Eliza Shin and John B. Leen in Vitalist Theatre’s “The Ghost is Here”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.       
      
The Ghost Is Here 

Written by Kōbō Abe 
Translation by Donald Keene 
Directed by Jaclynn Jutting  
DCA Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph (map)
thru Feb 19  |  tickets: $15-$25   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets  
         
           Read entire review
     


     
       

Kafka goes to Japan

     

Jamie Vann, Edgar Miguel Sanchez and Yadira Correa in Vitalist Theatre’s “The Ghost is Here”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

    
Vitalist Theatre presents
    
The Ghost Is Here

Review by Keith Ecker 

I couldn’t help but think of the pet rock craze while watching Vitalist Theatre‘s production of The Ghost Is Here. It helped that the beginning of the play has the central character, Oba Sankichi (Jamie Vann), boasting to his business partner, Fukagawa Keisuke (Edgar Miguel Sanchez), that he is such a skillful salesman that he could sell a rock. This notion of being able to sell nothing for something purely on the basis of one’s own cleverness is the central theme of the play, which was written by Japanese playwright Kōbō Abe, a man many consider the Japanese answer to Kafka. And the comparison is apt, as the resulting tone of the play is one of a kangaroo court where the power and Mildred Marie Langford and Edgar Miguel Sanchez in Vitalist Theatre’s “The Ghost is Here”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.greed of a few control the lives of many.

Presented in a sort of film noir style during post-World War II Japan, The Ghost Is Here focuses on the relationship between Oba, Fukagawa and Fukagawa’s ghostly companion, a spectral wartime buddy who follows him around and that only he can see and speak to. At the beginning of the play, when Oba first encounters Fukagawa, Fukagawa tells him of his spiritual companion’s mission to gather as many pictures of the deceased as possible in an attempt to reconnect the dead with the living. Oba, a well-known huckster, immediately sees financial opportunity and offers to assist Fukagawa.

The absurd scheme that Oba concocts works like this: Oba and Fukagawa buy photos of the dead from the villagers. Knowing that seller’s remorse will naturally set in, they then sell back the photos at exorbitantly high prices. The plan works better than imagined. In fact, Oba and Fukagawa manage to expand their business, exploiting Fukagawa’s ghost to create additional streams of revenue, including faith healing and lectures.

A play about economics might not sound interesting, but the brilliant performance by Vann combined with the beautiful set design (care of Craig Choma) are enough to keep the audience’s attention.

Vann comes off as a slime ball – but a charismatic slime ball. And that’s the exact combination of characteristics you need to pull of a role like this. Meanwhile, Sanchez’s understated portrayal of Fukagawa makes for an effective foil to Oba’s big personality.

Eliza Shin in Vitalist Theatre’s “The Ghost is Here”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr. Eliza Shin and Jamie Vann in Vitalist Theatre’s “The Ghost is Here”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr. Edgar Miguel Sanchez in Vitalist Theatre’s “The Ghost is Here”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.
John B. Leen in Vitalist Theatre’s “The Ghost is Here”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr. Jamie Vann and John B. Leen in Vitalist Theatre’s “The Ghost is Here”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr. Darrelyn Marx in Vitalist Theatre’s “The Ghost is Here”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

The set’s stark black and white dojo atmosphere and the use of shades and shadows create a seedy but stylish underworld for these lowlifes to live in. I, however, do have one complaint from a logistical standpoint. The stage is very wide where the audience is seated, so much so that it can make it difficult to clearly see the action when its taking place on the opposite side of the theater. I hope Vitalist remounts this piece again in a space that may be a bit more accommodating.

Jaclynn Jutting‘s direction helps keep the momentum going through what could be a very dense play. Yet, by the two-hour mark, the production starts to drag, resulting in a final 30 minutes that needs to move much more swiftly.

The Ghost Is Here is an allegory that supports regulated capitalism. This timely piece demonstrates that as long as you have a system that supports cleverness and greed, clever and greedy people will exploit the system. It’s a thought-provoking and entertaining play, and though it’s a bit bumpy near the end, it’s still worth a viewing.

  
Rating: ★★★
  
   

The Ghost Is Here continues through February 19th at DCA Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3pm.  Tickets are $15-$25, and are available by phone (312-742-8497) or online at dcatheater.org/tickets (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at VitalistTheatre.org.

Hank Hilbert, Dwight Sora, Jamie Vann and John B. Leen in Vitalist Theatre’s “The Ghost is Here”. Photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

All photos by John W. Sisson, Jr. 


     

artists

cast

Yadira Correa (Toshie); Hank Hilbert (Muratake); Mildred Marie Langford (Misako); John B. Leen (The Mayor, Citizen A); Darrelyn Marx (Old Woman, others); Miguel Nunez (Hakoyama); Edgar Miguel Sanchez (Fukayama); Scott Shimizu (The Man); Eliza Shin (Model, Citizen D); Dwight Sora (Torii, Announcer); Jamie Vann (Oba)

behind the scenes

Jaclynn Jutting (director); Kevin O’Donnell (original music); Gregor Mortis (sound design); Craig Choma (set design); Lee Fiskness (lighting); Rachel Sypniewski (costumes); Ethan Deppe (music director); Elizabeth Carlin Metz (artistic director); Robin Metz (executive producer); John W. Sisson, Jr. (photos)

12-0110

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2012 Reviews, DCA Theatre, Keith Ecker, Storefront Theatre, Vitalist Theatre

Comments (0)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Comments are closed.