Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Haunted

Keey Dandomirsky, Patrick Sanbongui (photo credit: David Cooper)

The Haunting Past
by Jay Catterson
Coping with loss and grief is what is explored in the new play Haunted by Daniel Karasik, winner of the 2011 Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition. This is the premiere production of this work, produced by Touchstone Theatre in association with the Vancouver Chutzpah! Festival.
The story centres around Abby Shiner (played by Kerry Sandomirsky), a relatively non-religious English literature professor whose husband had suddenly died of a heart attack. To cope, she attends synagogue where she meets David Green (Patrick Sabongui), a young handsome rabbi whose physical exuberance Abby finds attractive. As Abby and David explore their unusual relationship, Abby's headstrong daughter Sarah (Carmel Amit) coping with the loss of her father, reveals to her logic-driven girlfriend Raina Maclaine (Kayla Deorksen) that the reason she had revisited her passion for painting after a yearlong hiatus is because her deceased father visits her at night.

The production is impressive, with an ethereal yet simple white set with moving scrims by Pam Johnson and ghostly projections by Tim Matheson; as impressive as the set design was, the projection felt unnecessary at times especially in the latter half of the play. The script was rather captivating, especially in exploring themes of relationships in Judaism via the dialogue between Abby and David.
As solid as the cast was as a whole, with notable performances by Sabongui and Deorksen) I felt that at times the performances felt forced, especially Amit's portrayal of Sarah. Now whether this was the result of the script or the direction by Katrina Dunn, I'm not too sure. But overall the show works. I would have liked to have seen them explore more of the Jewish views of the supernatural and the afterlife, but the show mainly explores themes of being haunted by the past (past relationships, past secrets, past regrets) and how those haunts permeate into our daily lives and how people cope with them.
Overall, Haunted is a promising and exciting new Canadian play, and the production is worthy of a platform like Chutzpah to make its debut. Recommended.

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