(photo credit: Samya Kullab)
Strong performances looking for a stronger conclusion
by Jason Booker
Watching friends and loved ones deal with death is challenging in real life. Watching a play about it rarely easier. Haunted, a piece written and directed by Daniel Karasik, deals with the death of Dad a year before: Mom tries moving on and restarting her love life while daughter, Sarah, copes with painter’s block (a lack of inspiration). Mom turns to Judaism and David the Rabbi, while Sarah brushes off the comforting analysis of her scientist girlfriend.
Many of the two person scenes work well since Karasik has a great ear for dialogue and has created some interesting characters and surprising situations, though the choices always seem believable from these people. The initial scene crackles along (somewhat too fast) but the audience soon catches up.
An excellent concept for a script, Haunted rolls along for about two-thirds of its journey then suddenly hits an obstacle that results in a lukewarm conclusion. Somewhere the play stops changing and the characters are left out to dry and becoming stagnant, as the play slowly heads towards its somewhat predictable but ambiguous ending where one of the more intriguing characters stays offstage and only one family member’s crisis is resolved while the griever's direction is unclear.
The staging also seems awkward with too much floor work, an underutilized stage right locale and two huge hanging white banners that are clumsily used for the overly loud, long and abrupt transitions.
For a play that is about Dad’s death and how to move on, it seems strange that he is so under-represented in the play (particularly if he is haunting his family still) since there is little talk of him as a personality or pleasant memories of time with him in place of the quick jabs about his job or infidelities. And sadly, Raina, Sarah’s girlfriend, comes off rather flat, a biography and a plot device in place of a true character.
Haunted, winner of a handful of writing prizes, may read better than it plays but it is still a unique circumstance that is worth thinking about, particularly with these strong performances to contemplate.