A dramatization of eternal hell would be preferable to Redtwist's maudlin, moralizing Ghosts | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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A dramatization of eternal hell would be preferable to Redtwist's maudlin, moralizing Ghosts

The time, place, and motives are unclear in the humorless production.

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Henrik Ibsen's 1882 exploration of the rot at the core of a prominent family is meant to be a scathing indictment of societal hypocrisy. But in this new take at Redtwist Theatre—adapted and directed by Erin Murray—the result is mostly maudlin moralizing.

A son comes home from abroad stricken with the venereal disease he inherited from his late, sainted father. He falls for the beautiful maid who's his father's illegitimate child. The matriarch wanted to run off with the town's priest in her youth but now presides over a house full of lingering bad memories. The maid's adoptive father, an alcoholic carpenter, seems to have her best interests at heart but is actually leveraging the rich people's secrets to shake them down. Every new person who appears on stage is worse than the last. But it's never clear why any of their wallowing is necessary or of any interest to anyone but themselves.

By making the carpenter and maid black, the production attempts to make a 19th-century play more current, but it's unclear what era or country is being represented, so the added dimension of racial conflict seems misplaced. Perhaps the producers were hoping to evoke some eternal hell in which well-to-do white people dress in Old World garb and sweep their misdeeds under the finest rugs. I would've enjoyed seeing that play instead of watching this lot of vaguely wrought devils torment one another for no apparent reason and without even a trace of humor.   v

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