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Ghost Light

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - June 19, 2017


Jessy Smith
Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Some two decades ago, I committed to playing a graphic adventure video game called "Myst." It was a journey through an interactive world, filled with cryptic clues but few signposts as to its meaning or purpose. You needed to work these things out for yourself, or look for online cheat sheets to guide you when you got stuck in a particularly challenging section. That's how I would describe the experience of participating in Third Rail Projects' latest immersive theatrical production, Ghost Light, opening tonight at Lincoln Center's Claire Tow Theater.

Known for its site-specific dance and theatrical pieces, Third Rail's well-received Lewis Carroll-inspired Then She Fell is still going strong in Brooklyn. This latest work uses the Claire Tow as the backdrop for an excursion among theater ghosts that inhabit every corner of the facility. Do know, there is nothing remotely frightening about these most benign of ghosts; while they will interact with you, the only thing you need to worry about is whether you might flub a line or drop a prop or get in the way of one of the cast members as they run across your path.

If there is a theme to Ghost Light, it is one of repetition and shifting perspectives. The spirits that inhabit the production seem to be trapped in a time loop, forced to repeat certain experiences, presumably ones that were significant in their lives, for all of eternity. You get to witness fragments of performances, rehearsals, backstage moments, and personal encounters as you are guided (no free wandering in this event) through various rooms, up and down stairs, and along dimly lit passageways. At some stops, you will overhear bits of information that will feed into a later action, and you will observe some of the same elements at different times from above, below, in front of, behind, and alongside the performers. Along the way, you might be asked to recite a few lines, handle props, operate a piece of sound-effects equipment, or bear witness to a romantic interlude (nothing risqué).

If you are looking for shocking moments or a visceral experience, this is not the kind of interactive production for you. All in all, this is a quieter, more cerebral piece than others of its ilk. If you are like me, you will hunt for clues to pin down the time period or real-life events being referenced. I managed to come up with some hypotheses, but I suspect they are non-confirmable (no cheat sheets here) and that you will make your own connections out of the fragments of Shakespeare, 19th century melodramas, dances, and other episodes. There's even a suggestion that the entire work stems from the mind of a single playwright, one with frustrated aspirations to be a Pirandello or a Beckett, but who is just another of the lost souls confined to the theater.

Be aware that during the course of the two-hour event, you will be standing, walking, climbing flights of stairs, and shifted into various groups (mine ranged from three to seven in number at any given time). What is remarkable is how well everything has been planned out and staged so that, while specific moments may seem random, everything falls into place as a compelling whole. The conceptual storyline, direction, and choreography are attributed to Zach Morris and Jennine Willett, but truly this is a collaborative effort by the entire company, including its 16 performers. Eric Southern provides the moody lighting; Sean Hagerty is responsible for the sound design and accompanying music; the array of period costumes are by Montana Levi Blanco; and the sets are by Brett J. Banakis. All contribute to the singular experience that is Ghost Light, a work that is part haunting, part backstage tour, and part theater lore.


Ghost Light
Through August 6
Lincoln Center Theater - Claire Tow Theater, 150 West 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: Telecharge


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