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‘The Ghost Sonata’ Haunts at Undermain

Guest blogger Gail Sachson , former Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission, owns Ask Me about Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning.

"Ghost Sonata" at the Undermain

“Ghost Sonata” at the Undermain

The ghosts in August Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata, directed by Patrick Kelly and presented  at  Undermain  Theatre through May 11th, aren’t all on the stage. They are within us all. They are the ghosts of our Mothers, our Fathers and ourselves. Often referred to as a dream,  Ghost Sonata ,with all the inconsistencies and absurdities of a dream, is more like a nightmare.  Yet it is a nightmare from which the sleeper/theater-goer awakens not with a scream, but with a sense of redemption, able to see the truth.

That truth: the lives we lead, filled with fraud, falsehoods, meaningless conversation, cheating and miserliness, will end in a life “sucked of strength,” and we will die a slow death behind a dying screen.

The timeless themes of who cheated on who, who bilked who out of money, whose marriages went sour and who hid their identities are all dreamlike pop-in/pop-out details , which you can force yourself to remember. Or you can concentrate more on the superb theatrical talent, the lyrical quality, the staging and  the creative scenic design, including the mandala painted floor, which heightens the theme of no escape. If this all seems seems confusing, it is supposed to be.

Your seat mate may nudge you in Scene 1 asking, “Why can’t the Old Man see the Milkmaid? Or in Scene 2, “Now exactly whose child is that?”  Or in Scene 3 of the 90-minute, no intermission play, “Why is she talking like a parrot ,and why is the cook behind the curtain?”

If I tell you more about the curtain, the ghost, the mummy (Did I mention the mummy?), the dinner party (Every meaningful theater production  seems to involve a dinner party), the symbolism of the hyacinth,  the truth about the flickering light, or let you read the comprehensive notes provided by the theater’s literary department, I would take the fun away. After all, ART is supposed to confuse.