By Kabo Abe
Translated by Donald Keene
Directed by Jaclynn Jutting
produced by Vitalist Theatre
Produced by DCA Storefront Theater, Chicago
Ambitious and over-staged production emerges as a confusing overly long pastiche
I’m perplexed with director Jaclynn Jutting’s The Ghost is Here. Casting a Japanese play with mostly white and African-American actors and then dressing them in 1940’s zut suits and using incoherent singing during scene transitions makes for a mixed tone or Brechtian tone with comic book elements and melodrama that confuses more than helped tell the story.
If this story is set in Japan just after World War II, why try to mix Monty Python, Beckett, Kafka, and Joseph Heller elements to tell a Japanese story? Is this trying to be satire, parody, farce or fable? The Ghost is Here finds con-artist Oba (Jamie Vann) promoting a grim scam – selling the dead or photos of the dead. With flair and panache, Oba develops an absurd scheme that finds villagers selling him photos of their dead relatives only to be charged exorbitant prices whe they seek to retrieve them. Oba has an agent that represents the ghosts – Fukagawa (Edgar Miguel Sanchez).
In a convoluted complex plot that wonders through two and a half hours, we grow tired of this show after about an hour. The singing, corn-ball attempt at comedy and the over played melodrama made for a long evening. Too many scenes, too many plot lines and too much overacting hurt the show.
Better this work is defined in traditional Japanese formats with Asian actors without all the contradictory style elements. I’d get rid of the terrible songs and I’d trim at least 40 minutes off the script. Me and most of the audience members in the production I saw became restless and bored with this redundant and wordy work. Amazingly, Vitalist Theatre usually produces excellent work but not this time. I’d skip this one.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 15, 2012
For more info checkout The Ghost is Here page om Theatreinchicago.com
At DCA Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph, Chicago, IL