“Ghosts’ yells too loud, too long to give goosebumps

The Theatre in the Round’s production fails to showcase playwright Henrik Ibsen’s skill

Tatum Fjerstad

The tiny Theatre in the Round missed a big opportunity.

With its current production it became the first U.S. theater to honor the influential playwright Henrik Ibsen on the 100th anniversary of his death.

But the theater deadened, rather than showcased, his script. It’s not that they didn’t try hard enough, but that they tried too hard to pay homage to the Norwegian playwright.

Ibsen’s plays, which dramatically changed the face of drama, are full of domestic disputes, dramatic confessions and pity parties.

For an audience to stay involved in each character’s pain, there must be depth and varied intensities to each emotional outburst. In this production, the actors were loud. But even at great volumes, they lacked intensity.

The actors peaked emotionally early on, making their anger and sadness easy to tune out like white noise. The few scenes in which they used quiet, intense voices were the most effective.

The music and lighting also were overdone. Flashes of lightning coupled with eerie futuristic music turned an Ibsen play into a horror film. And the “ghosts” in Ibsen’s play are of a different sort.

Following a young man as he returns home, the plot of “Ghosts” involves family secrets, sexual promiscuity and syphilis. But Ibsen used weather, nature, disease and his disgust for the middle class to go deeper and create a fine work of dramatic art. It’s a pity Theatre in the Round often doesn’t do enough to move past the surface.

In Theatre in the Round’s production, a thunderstorm rumbles outside until shortly after the second act begins, giving weight to the depressing themes. Although this takes place in a middle-class home in the country, the mostly wooden set is bare, very brown and hollow, emphasizing one of Ibsen’s favorite themes: emptiness in middle-class families.

David Coral, who plays Pastor Manders, stumbled over half a dozen lines, distracting the audience as he tried to make up for his indiscretions.

The play ends with a long, dramatic, bloodcurdling scream. It tops off the overly dramatic production better suited for a less intimate theater, a less nuanced playright.