‘Cantorial’ at The Little Theatre of Alexandria by Julia L. Exline

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The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents Cantorial, a ghost story written by Ira Levin and directed by C. Evans Kirk, who also contributes the set design. While this isn’t your typical ”creepy” ghost story, what it lacks in suspense it makes up with an interesting plot and talented ensemble.

Steve Rosenthal (Morris Lipkind) and James Myers (Warren Ives). Photo by Shane Canfield.

Set in a converted synagogue in 1987 Manhattan, a large Star of David sits atop several pillars, with furniture covered in sheets scattered across the stage. Lighting Designers Ken and Patti Crowley illuminate the Star, so that it shines imperiously above everything else, especially when the rest of the stage is plunged into darkness. As the plot revolves greatly around the set itself, it changes throughout the production, and is hardly recognizable as its former self by the time the show is over. Sound Designer Janice Rivera and Costume Designer Annie Vroom help capture the decade, with 80’s music playing during scene changes and intermission, and utilizing dated styles such as sideways ponytails and off-shoulder sweaters.

When young couple Warren Ives (James Myers) and Lesley Rosen (Heather Benjamin) move into their new home, a synagogue that was built in 1896 and recently renovated, they are thrown when they begin to hear the haunted Hebrew singing of an old Cantor (beautifully sung offstage by Rick Flint), and seek advice from their Jewish grocer, Morris Lipkind (played hilariously by Steve Rosenthal). Morris translates that the Cantor wants his synagogue to be stripped down to its original structure, and become again what it once was. This troubles the couple, who both vehemently refuse to alter their new home, and seek help from specialists (John Franklin and Fe Vivas Patriciu (Philip and Donna Quinn) with the hopes to rid their home of the singing…that is, until Warren becomes unnaturally attached to the voice, and becomes obsessed with fulfilling its wish.

James Myers (Warren Ives) and Heather Benjamin (Lesley Rosen). Photo by Shane Canfield.

Friction develops between the couple as Warren, an adopted child, struggles with his true identity and newfound kinship he feels with both the Jewish faith and his new endeavor. Secrets from Warren’s past are uncovered with an unexpected visit from his father William Ives (John Shackelford), that could unravel everything he’s worked for.

The audience waited with bated breath for a spooky moment that, I’ll admit, never came. While this irritated some people, who were hoping for a good Halloween scare, I still found the plot to be incredibly interesting and engaging. This is an appealing story about a man’s history and sense of self, and the conflicts that arrive in the journey to find it…and it just happens to have a ghost in it. The acting was wonderful, especially from Steve Rosenthal, who was a clear audience favorite.

I had a great time at this show, and I definitely recommend Cantorial for an entertaining evening out.

James Myers (Warren Ives) and John Shackelford (Williams Ives). Photo by Shane Canfield.

Running Time: 90 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

Cantorial plays though November 17, 2012 at The Little Theatre of Alexandria – 600 Wolfe Street, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call (703) 683-0496, or purchase  them online.