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by Henrik Ibsen
Adapted by Maureen Kilmurry and the Windfall Theatre Cast
from the 1891 William Archer translation.To lay to rest rumors about the depraved behavior of her late husband, Helene Alving is on the verge of dedicating an orphanage in memory of him. She has built the orphanage with Captain Alving’s money so that her son Oswald will not inherit anything from his father. Her plans unravel as ghosts from the past emerge and long kept secrets and lies are exposed. Banned as shocking and lewd when it was written in 1881, yet influential and important to GB Shaw, Thomas Hardy and Henry James, Ibsen’s GHOSTS shined a stark light on the hypocrisy of the day and society’s oppression of the human spirit. Ironically, those societal ghosts still walk in our world today. Don’t miss this poignant and powerful play!
Ben George, Charles Hanel, Samantha Martinson,
Joe Picchetti, Carol Zippel
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All Windfall performances are at 8pm
At Village Church Arts, 130 E. Juneau
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Shepherd Express ReviewThe Intensity of Ibsen
'Ghosts' onstage at Windfall Theater
Windfall Theatre chases a challenging gravity at the beginning of this season as it presents Henrik Ibsen’s weighty family drama, Ghosts. Carol Zippel is resolute as Mrs. Alving, a family matriarch who is trying to put to rest certain sinister shadows from her family’s past.
Joe Picchetti casts a hauntingly deep energy into the role of her artist son Oswald who has returned home suffering from an ominous disease. There is a passion at the heart of Picchetti’s performance. The character’s infirmity doesn’t hold him back from a feisty interaction with a pastor who is helping the family with certain business affairs. The pastor is played with elegantly troubled poise by Ben George, who conjures an admirable amount of authority onstage even when he’s not speaking a word. Samantha Martinson is given quite a bit more to communicate nonverbally in the role of Mrs. Alving’s maid. Martinson plays a very strong and articulate person who must work in subtlety and clever planning to navigate her way through the undesirable options that have been presented to her since birth. Martinson defines the role quite well, giving her just the right amount of fire and passion underneath the precise layer of formality necessary for a domestic servant.
It’s a cozy space that Windfall inhabits. Much of the intensity of the drama is brought to the stage by proximity. Silences and sighs grow to fill the entire space in an organic way. Director Maureen Kilmurry has developed a production that lives just as much in the space between actors as it does in the tension between them. Through Oct. 10 at Village Church Arts on 130 E. Juneau Ave. For tickets, call 414-332-3963.
Milwaukee Examiner Review"Ghosts" at Windfall Theatre
By Jeff Grygny, Milwaukee Examiner
It's not at all surprising that Ghosts is so seldom performed. This 1881 play by Henrik Ibsen broke ground for realism in many ways—and it is also one of the most monumentally depressing dramas ever written. Smothering under both rigid social norms and the dismal Norwegian climate, its characters conceal desperate secrets. Yet miraculously, Windfall Theatre's crystal-clear production offers an evening of gripping, stimulating theater.
Ibsen was the Lars Van Trier of his day: innovative and contrarian, his settings are as tightly focused as any Dogme film, eschewing lyricism in favor of clear-sighted verity; he challenged conventions while scandalizing both the public and the critics (one of Ibsen's critics called the play "a festering wound"). The first copies of Ghosts were returned to the printer: the booksellers were too ashamed to carry them; and the play's first actual production was, improbably, in Chicago—performed in Norwegian by a company of forward-thinking émigrés. For all that, Ghosts is very much a product of its time: though it dared to bring up the forbidden topic of venereal disease, its tragic outcome could only have occurred in a world before the discovery of antibiotics. By depicting forbidden subjects in such a vivid, unblinking way, detailing the emotional and spiritual toll they take, Ibsen blazed the trail for countless issue dramas, determined to shine light into the secret corners of society.
It's remarkable how little scandalous material there actually is in the dialog: these characters wouldn't be caught dead saying out loud things like "The captain got the serving girl pregnant," much less whisper the dreaded word "syphilis" (which is the vehicle for the doom that arrives like a Greek tragedy in the final act). Everything is conveyed by innuendo—which actually makes the script much more powerful: we have to piece the truth together just as the characters do. "There, I've told you everything" says Mrs. Alving—but she's actually said almost nothing; everything is implicit.
You can count the number of woman protagonists in classic drama on your fingers; Ibsen was responsible for a handful of them, contributing Hedda Gabler, Nora from A Doll's House, and, in this play, Helene Alving. Expertly rendered by Carol Zippel, Alving is a cultured, intelligent, and capable woman who has taken over management of a large estate after the death of her dissolute but well-respected husband (nobody ever says how he died, but the implication is clear). Complex, articulate, and making the most of the mixed hand life has dealt her, she is rebuked by the village priest for reading "suspect books" and espousing liberal ideals. Zippel lets us see into this sympathetic character without a single false note. She has a worthy partner in Joe Picchetti as her son Oswald, a successful painter who has spent most of his life abroad— barely knowing his father— but who has recently returned home for an extended stay. (Picchetti has been seen much around town of late, but, one suspects, it won't be long before Hollywood or Broadway snaps him up.) Together, these accomplished actors maneuver their most harrowing scenes without a trace of the bathos into which they could very easily descend.
As a serving girl with ambitions, Samantha Martinson brilliantly presents a woman who plays the game of submission while you can almost hear the wheels turning in her head; when she learns the truth and shows her colors, it's a breathtaking moment. Rounding out the cast are Charles Hanel as a townsman scheming behind a mask of deference, and Ben George as the Pastor. A striking figure in severe black, he seems genuinely benevolent, but (as is the hazard of his profession), he is quick to pass judgment, and, as played by George, a bit hapless. His advice, ever hewing to the letter of scripture, has spectacularly terrible consequences for everyone. The problem with religious authority, Ibsen suggests, is that its strictures lead to a kind of righteous blindness—no wonder Ibsen was condemned, a mere century after the French Enlightenment raised the ideals of liberty and reason over those of conformity and obedience. Under Maureen Kilmurry's finely-tuned direction, every moment of the script works toward the whole; the characters' relationships and intentions are clearly displayed: there's not a dead moment. Carl Eiche has designed a simple yet elegant set evoking spiritual agoraphobia: a beautiful monochromatic backdrop of forest and sea gracefully conveys the setting, while an ingenious lighting concept by Dylan Elhai brings it to life in a heartbreaking visual coup; to say anything more would be a spoiler.
Some productions try to dazzle us with exotic theatrical banquets: elaborate confections, sparkling wordplay, or high-concept conceits. Windfall's production of this modernist classic shows that sometimes plain bread and wine can make for a very satisfying feast.
Waukesha FreemanHenrik Ibsen, one of the most renowned Norwegian playwrights of the 19th century, was severely criticized during his life for tackling issues that existed but were not culturally acceptable as material for literature. His works, nonetheless, had a positive effect on the realism of Hardy, James, and Shaw, and to this day, many of his plays are often performed, second only to Shakespeare in popularity.
Review of “Ghosts” September 26, 2015
By Julie McHale
Review of “Ghosts” September 26, 2015
By Julie McHale
“Ghosts” deals with marriage, infidelity, sexual disease, incest, alcoholism and euthanasia – all realities that exist in any society. Ibsen questions the strict morality, prevalent in his time, a morality that is more concerned with how things appear than how they really are, the attitude of hiding anything scandalous, following the letter rather than the spirit of the law. Pastor Manders, well delineated by Ben George, is the character who represents this point of view.
Mrs. Alving, a tortuous figure, long married to a philandering husband, is erecting an orphanage to her late husband to cover over his scandalous behavior. Carol Zippel is stellar in the role. Their son Oswald, very credibly rendered by Joe Picchetti, an artist just returned from years in Paris, is dying from syphilis. The cause of his disease is ambiguous as to whether he acquired it genetically or from his own dissolute behavior. Sexually transmitted diseases were not well understood in Ibsen’s day.
As the play proceeds, all sorts of “secrets” (ghosts from the past) are revealed by Mrs. Alving, Oswald and others, much to the moral outrage of Pastor Manders, but again, he is only concerned with how things look, what others will say, than with the painful reality of situations. To Ibsen, Manders epitomizes the hypocrisy too often prevalent among those who are firmly entrenched in “religion.” Having the audacity to criticize the self-proclaimed moral giants of his time probably accounts for the harsh criticism Ibsen suffered. Exposes are seldom welcomed by those who are targeted.
Two other characters who figure in the drama are Jacob Engstrand (Charles Hanel) and Regina Engstrand (Samantha Martinson), another pair whose histories are revealed as secrets are uncovered. Both actors are engaging in their roles.
Adapted and directed by Maureen Kilmurry with costuming well designed by Connie L. Petersen and an authentic set design by Carl Eiche, “Ghosts” is a very intriguing drama. Many of the issues raised are still very relevant today. The play runs for two more weekends with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 with an added performance on Thursday, October 8 in the Village Church on Juneau, just west of Water Street in Milwaukee. Check out www.windfalltheatre.com or call 414-332-3963 for reservations.