Ghosts

Director Jonathan Moscone's production of Ghosts at Berkeley Rep is a thing of beauty

By now you may have heard a rumor that California Shakespeare Theater director Jonathan Moscone's production of Ghosts at Berkeley Rep is a thing of beauty. The rumor happens to be true. Ibsen's tragedy about Helene Alving and her louche son Osvald rings effortlessly from the stage with Ellen McLaughlin and Davis Duffield in the leading roles. McLaughlin plays the widow Helene with a chirping pride, dodging the tired morality of Pastor Manders (James Carpenter) with brisk wit and a dash of philosophy until Osvald tries to marry his half-sister. Emily Ackerman is Helene's amusingly well-behaved (but not quite proper) servant, Regina Engstrand; Brian Keith Russell plays Regina's supposed father. All the acting is first rate, and Moscone's direction is plain and simple. I don't know how long it's been since I've watched an old-fashioned verbal drama work so well, with no special effects or Masterpiece Theatre flourishes. Neil Patel helps with his austere set, bathed in icy Scandinavian light by Scott Zielinski. Patel's set draws no attention to itself until it needs to, in the second act, and then it performs as brilliantly as the cast. "All those years of marriage," Pastor Manders says to Helene, incredulously, "were nothing but wallpaper over an abyss" -- which Ibsen, Moscone, and Patel sweep away with grace and flair.

 
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