Henrik Ibsen’s classic Ghosts resonates with startling contemporary power in this new translation at Seattle Rep.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’ve found it quite refreshing to see plays written a hundred or more years ago by writers who were pioneering Social Justice Warriors and not afraid to point their finger at the evils of White Male Supremacy that are still haunting us today. That’s what makes Ibsen such a powerful and relevant writer.
It also helps that this new Ghosts translation, by Paul Walsh and directed by Carey Perloff, is very bluntly fresh for twenty first century ears. It is a far more honest and impassioned work than its Victorian excess would have you believe, stripping it of its grand proclamations and tendency to melodrama.
The casting is top notch, with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as the free-thinking Mrs. Alving and David Strathairn as the prudish Pastor Manders, which is just what they need to bring the play to life in their modern liberal Seattle Rep audience.
Dane Laffrey’s smart scenic design focuses the action in a glass enclosed room and features a large portrait of Mr. Alving that becomes a focal point for his family and their secrets.
Adding to the drama is the presence of original music by David Coulter, who performs his score on stage, sometimes subtly and at other times brashly loud and stunningly dramatic. He creates a musical backdrop that really enhances the subtle Nordic elements in this production and adds a strong voice to each character, especially those of Mrs. Alving (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and Manders (David Strathairn).
I found that the entire cast were very good at conveying their characters’ emotional truths in this complicated family drama.