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Centerstage Chicago

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Centerstage Review, by Rory Leahy.
Monday Nov 05, 2007

The horror genre rarely works well onstage, which is odd, given the intimacy theatre creates between audience and performers. Polarity Ensemble Theatre's "Ghost Watch," written and directed by Richard Engling, is an example of how to do it right: establish a group of compelling characters and then take those characters exactly where they don't want to go.

The plot is that of the classic ghost story, in an apartment where a murder motivated by jealous rage took place a century before, an ambitious filmmaker, Adam (Frank Sawa), hopes to gain fame and fortune by documenting events on video. Less enthusiastic is his girlfriend, Jessie (Sarah Pitard), a troubled young woman on the run from an obsessive ex, Kendall (Keith Neagle), who happens to be a childhood friend of Adam's. The more we learn about the characters, the more we come to understand that their lives have all been touched by a mysterious evil that goes beyond a single haunted apartment.

Engling, who was inspired by a supposedly true haunting experience, does a wonderful job of extracting and exploring the metaphorical truths that lie beneath the literal surface. For all its supernatural trappings, "Ghost Watch" is a play about male rage, the savage, murderous impulse to dominate women, a phenomenon more terrifying than any ghost. Nonetheless, this is not a morality tale but an expert blend of creepiness, dread, sexuality and psychological terror.

Engling makes a few missteps, particularly with dialogue that occasionally goes over the top, but his nearly perfect cast succeeds in keeping their world grounded and real.

"Ghost Watch" is a dark, red wine of horror. Drink up!

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