Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Giving Up the Ghost By Beverly Creasey

AFTERLIFE: A GHOST STORY is Steve Yockey’s provocative and puzzling new play about loss and love and what awaits us in the great beyond. New Repertory Theatre is giving the world premiere a stylish outing (through Feb. 6th) with Marianna Bassham and Thomas Piper in the lead roles. As the play begins, the couple is trying to deal with the loss of their child. Yockey skillfully captures the overwhelming guilt and repressed anger which often tear apart a relationship after a tragedy. Bassham and Piper break your heart.

Act I ends with a spectacular special effect (orchestrated by David Remedios and Karen Parsons). I haven’t been so thrilled and amazed since Ming Cho Lee’s avalanche in the Broadway production of K2.

Act II is connected to Act I by the thinnest of threads (paper thin, in fact). Tone, style and rhythm all change as the dead now face three realities (or maybe ‘fantasies’). It’s the doors of Lets Make A Deal: Door numbers one and two are blind alleys but door number three offers the needy a hot cup of tea – granted, the tea lady is awfully testy but at least there are no birds of prey hanging about.

It’s certainly courageous to change horses in midstream but I’m not so sure the territory in Act II packs the punch of the suffering in Act I. For me, momentum and focus were lost but replaced by a fascination with Yockey’s metaphysical ideas. What’s more, Dale Place is a majestic bird and I wouldn’t want to lose the chance of meeting him or Adrienne Krstansky’s wonderfully cranky hostess. Director Kate Warner gets fine performances all around, from the aforementioned and from Georgia Lyman and Karl Baker Olson, as well.