In its current iteration Michael Thebridge’s new comedy Ghosted plays like a promising pilot for a potentially delightful sit-com or web-series. A continuation of the story, Boo is advertised in the program. Ghosted concerns recently single Oliver (Kostas Moutsoulas) and his aborted liaison with the sharp tongued Kyle (Jayden Popik) who attempts to ghost him only to end up being hit and killed by his Uber driver and his soul being confined to Oliver’s apartment. Part Will and Grace, a dash of the ghost and Mrs. Muir with a bit of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit; Ghosted has a strong premise, snappy dialogue and some enjoyable physical comedy but ultimately weighed down by being over-long, with several underwritten characters and a production that is still finding its feet.
There is much to admire in the text; Mr. Thebridge has a gift for fast, witty repartee and there is great comic potential in the minutia of having the ghost of someone you can barely tolerate stuck in your apartment, a recurring plot point concerns Oliver passive aggressively building up a high electricity bill. The odd couple dynamics between the two make for some amusing highlights that I wish had been explored to greater potential. Broad, slapstick hilarity also comes from the numerous attempts to exorcise Kyle from the apartment facilitated by Oliver’s boundary complex friend, Jordan (Holly Chadwick, doing the best she can in a thin character) and brash, down to earth medium Pauline (Lucinda Cowden). There is also a brief cameo from Ian Hart as catholic priest Father Dougal who gives a dry and very game performance but is hindered by an Irish accent that is in the process of being refined.
Throughout the performance I felt that I was watching a very good play that was a few steps removed from it’s potential due to the text being overstuffed with ideas, thinly drawn characters and some extraneous plot points. Currently a two-hour play seems excessive; with some careful editing it could easily be cut down to a breezy 90 or even 60 minutes. Hence why I believe this concept would probably work better as a serial; its episodic nature would be perfectly suited to 15- or 30-minute episodes in a full season that would allow some deeper exploration into the situation and the dynamics.
Another consistent problem is limited dimensions of the characters. It’s a perfectly valid choice to use archetypes and broad, two-dimensional characterizations in comedy and for the most part the cast rise to challenge of creating colorful and entertaining portrayals. But some characters are inserted into the drama more effectively than others. Max Meaden is charming as Will, a love introduced late into the play for Oliver but can sometimes feel superfluous.
Egregiously protagonist Oliver is the character I feel is in most need of development. Comedy is filled with characters who are unlikable; who are self-absorbed, neurotic and socially awkward; they’re relatable because they speak to the parts of ourselves that we may not be especially fond of but there needs to be a certain nuance to their development that at least has the audience on their side. As he is written I can’t understand why any of the characters in the play (save for Kyle who attempts not to) would give him the time of day. He is snobby, judgmental and his awkwardness frequently comes off as rude rather than endearing even when that’s not the intention of the playwright. Kostas Moutsoulas certainly commits to the neurotic and aggravating parts of Oliver, however due to some staging and projection his dialogue is frequently lost. Jayden Popik is a delight as Kyle an apathetic hedonist with a genius for a withering putdown. Despite being vain, petulant and selfish Popik infuses the character with enough charisma and energy to make Kyle oddly charming.
I wish Lucinda Cowden’s Pauline; phone operator by day and medium by night; had been introduced to the action much, much sooner. She’s a brassy, witty and confident lush who refreshingly does not suffer fools despite the seeming absurdity of her vocation. She also has a terrific rapport with the other characters; especially Jordan, her and Holly Chadwick bounce off each other beautifully. Some of the loveliest moments in the production some from the cast’s easy chemistry when they’re just hanging out exchanging barbs and quips.
Gabrielle Reiher and Isobel Sommers have crafted an inventive production that creatively mixes mediums and stage craft. Bel Giles’ pop art animation is hilarious, but I felt could have been utilized more. Matt Brown has created an eerily witty soundscape which I’ve no doubt will better synced with the actors as the season progresses. There are some odd choices in the staging and design that I feel were inconsistent or not developed to their potential. The cast all have wear pale, stylized make-up that is crudely applied and at odds with the relatively naturalistic performance style. It’s an interesting choice but one that I felt distracted from their performances rather than enhanced the aesthetic. Comedy and farce lives and dies by its timing, especially in a text as zippy as this one; currently the scene changes are awkward and over complicated (the stage hand however is a consistently amusing presence), the play’s relationship with the fourth wall is unclear. I am not sure if this was planned but last night Ms Sommers ran down the aisle in full evening dress to move a curtain during a key moment (she repeated this during the curtain call) it was distracting and, in my opinion, could have been executed better.
I’ve no doubt that as the season progresses the cast and production team will settle into a rhythm that will only heighten and strengthen what they are already doing well.
Ultimately it is always fulfilling being able to experience new work, especially from local writers. My reservations about this production in its current form very much stem from there being, in most cases many strong elements that have yet to be molded to their full potential. It is a fun and entertaining evening at the theatre with some very talented creatives and I highly recommend seeing it for its rich concept and for the opportunity to follow its development whether it be theatre, media or both.
*I would like to apologize to the company of Ghosted, I was unwell for much of last night and had to leave the theatre before the first act was finished which involved walking across the front of the stage. I hope it wasn’t too off putting. I did manage to stay for the whole performance though.