Stupid Ghost – You Do You Boo

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A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE

There’s an African proverb that goes: “Until the story is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”  This seems to apply to ghost stories, too, up to now.  Savannah Reich’s Stupid Ghost flips the script to let the Ghost (Emily Hall) tell the story of the haunt in her own words.  If Ghost is an unreliable narrator, well, maybe that’s to be forgiven, because she’s also a teenage girl.  Teens and the paranormal, from Buffy to Bella, make an excellent pairing, probably because the dumb bunnies think they’re never going to die and ghosties never really do.  Add to that the hot, intoxicating notion of a romantic partner who literally has nothing to do ever but focus on you and bam!  Swooning Gothic fairy tale the likes of which sells five kajillion books.

Of course, anything taken to its logical extreme starts to go wonky, and Reich certainly takes the notion of moony specters right on out there.  Ghost, lonely, bored, and a little defiant, fixates on Ronnie (Danni Tsuboi), the Pretty Girl.  In stalkerish, hormonal fashion, Ghost is both in love with Ronnie and kind of wants to be her too, particularly after she gets a load of Ronnie’s hunky boyfriend, John Pierre (Mike Smith).  Ghost is quick to emphasize that she’s a nice ghost, they’re all so very nice, and she’s not like those other ghosts, especially not the Beetlejuiceish Poltergeist (Trevor Wilhelms) hanging around, causing trouble.  Soon, though, Ghost’s voyeuristic affection goes from objectifying (as Ronnie observes, Ghost doesn’t know, really, the first thing about her) to terrifying.  It starts to seem a lot like stealing.

Carley Bales is a director (and performer) who works startlingly well in the deep, dark cracks of kitsch.  She seems to delight in probing the soft, vulnerable, painful spots, the horror under the “horror”.  I enjoy her commitment to discordance – there’s a portion, involving a lecture in the dulcet tones of Kevin Griffin Moreno, that was my favorite part of the play, ill-timed as it might appear, that I think was her favorite part, too.  She lets it get weirder and weirder, realer and realer, all the time undercutting with a glorious dose of humor.  This path guides the carefully constructed design, too, from the fun spook-house lights by Rick Gerriets to the witty, witty costumes of Jordan Matthews (the brightly patterned children’s sheets were an inspired touch) to the 60’s dance routine by Madison Coan.

Emily Hall brings such a strange, great quality to Ghost – she’s open and honest but angry, and stubborn, also.  Her beautiful eyes seem like they stay open just a little too long, or something.  Her intensity is hilarious (BATS!  BATS!), with a faint outline of poignant (have you ever seen anyone dance while only recently figuring out what their arms are?).  I like how Hall makes Ghost so hopeful she’s blinded by it in the way a really, really long wait will do to you.  Her set, on-the-brink-of-an-eyeroll expression says: “Yeah, I’m sorry I ruined your life but not that much, I mean, at least you had a life.”  Mike Smith is absolutely delightful as the block-headed John Pierre, the man’s comic timing is simply not to be matched (Smith is fabulous because he’s the opposite of a ham, he cedes a scene when needed and does not snatch from other actors, even when he easily could).  Trevor Wilhelms always has the most fun when he’s allowed to jitter right off the edge of the coffee table, as he does here, with his bag of tics.  If Danni Tsuboi’s Ronnie is little blank, that’s okay, depictions of Pretty Girls often are, the better to project upon you, my dear.  She gets hers, especially in one scathing monologue that should be required listening for every Nice Guy out there.

BOTTOM LINE:  Stupid Ghost is Annex at their most charming, but it’s Annex, so it’ll be bizarro enough for you, don’t you worry.  Keen direction plus warm, confident performances equal a perfectly timed spook show with…well…if not a heart of gold, then at least a heart.  See it and you’ll know what I mean.

Stupid Ghost is playing at Psychic Readings until October 16th.

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