Wonderfully directed by Donald Hicken, the production of Ghosts at Everyman Theater is a moving drama set in the distant past, but updated with a new attitude and understanding for modern audiences.
Ghosts, written by Henrik Ibsen, focuses on an upper class widow, Helene Alving. Mrs. Alving, with the help of her pastor, has decided to open an orphanage dedicated to the memory of her late husband. However, Mrs. Alving’s son returns from abroad with disturbing news and the day before the orphanage is set to open, tensions run high when Mrs. Alving reveals a shocking secret to her pastor. Her revelation calls the idealistic version of morality and relationships into question as Mrs. Alving and her son will be forced to confront the ghosts of their past.
Danny Gavigan is extremely confident and free-spirited as the bohemian son, Osvald Alving, displaying excellent comedic chops, though he was a tad too melodramatic at times, even for an over-expressive artist. Sophie Hinderberger as family maid Regina Engstrand is incredibly brisk and sharp in her vocal manners and physical movement. She makes a remarkable transformation in Act II after her character learns an important secret.
Bruce Randolph Nelson (Jakob Engstrand) performed splendidly as the common man comedic relief. His crass portrayal and excellent comedic timing provided a welcome break to the high tensions throughout the drama and he quickly became the obvious audience favorite.
However, the true success of the production belongs to the two actors with the majority of the stage time and emotional conflict.
James Whalen’s Pastor Manders was delightfully resolute and self-righteous, though he still allowed his character to have some awkward and amusing comedic moments. Whalen made most of the character’s tediously pompous and hypocritical lines sound incredibly sincere and earnest.
Deborah Hazlett as the protagonist, widowed Mrs. Alving, is extraordinary and truly is the heart and soul of the production. She portrays a nuanced character with quiet dignity and determination, providing the perfect amounts of witty and sassy quips to show her strength. Her delivery of her monologue in Act II was fantastic. Some of her moments displaying that the character was just shy of an emotional meltdown were truly awe-inspiring.
The chemistry and emotional connection between Whalen and Hazlett is sizzling and the theater was almost charged with an invisible electric current during some of their more intense moments. Hazlett displays a wonderful sense of strength and determination during her battle of wills with Whalen.
David Burdick’s costumes are very detailed to each character. The women’s costumes were particularly impressive, as they provided a wonderful nineteenth century silhouette, complete with corset and bustle in very rich, luxurious fabrics, yet still allowed plenty of freedom of movement for all of the physical moments within the drama.
The set, a large garden room designed by Daniel Ettinger, is wonderfully detailed and particularly impressive was the constant stream of water running down the rear terrace windows, realistically representing the constant rain storm throughout the show. In addition, Harold F. Burgess II,’s lighting effects were incredibly realistic and actually looked like natural sunlight or a warm fiery glow was streaming into the theater from outdoors.
With a phenomenal cast, funny yet poignant performances and spectacular updated sensibilities in a period drama for modern audiences, Ghosts at the Everyman Theatre is not to be missed.
Running Time: 2 Hours and 15 Minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.