Haunted (Tangoco) 2012 SummerWorks Review

Playing in Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace as part of SummerWorks,  Haunted is a show written and directed by Daniel Karasik. The script won the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Award and was a finalist for the Herman Voaden National Playwrighting Award. The short scenes that make up the piece likely read as witty, tight and well thought-out.

Haunted is the story of a more than middle aged, newly widowed woman having an affair, or rather, a courtship, with her rabbi. Meanwhile, her daughter Sarah is seeing the ghost of her father, which really upsets both her mother and her girlfriend Raina. Noting that the author and director of the piece are one person, perhaps the piece could have benefitted from more collaboration – and with all of it’s acclaim hopefully this work will have more time for collaboration in the future.

The story starts promisingly in the middle of Abby and Rabbi David’s relationship. However, I thought that casting was an issue throughout this piece. Abby is played by the wonderful Rosemary Dunsmore who is a fabulous actor but I couldn’t figure out if Abby was meant to be Jewish or was a converted Jew, it’s not discussed which left me hanging. We do know that there isn’t a huge emotional stake in her dead husband – the marriage was over anyway.

I thought that the lack of chemistry between Abby and David worked to the advantage of the script – David is into traditional courtship, which ends up being a sticking point for Abby. David is played by Jonathan Widdlefield who puts up a valiant effort in the role but ultimately misprounces his Hebrew (as was quickly pointed out to me by an eager audience member, I wouldn’t have known the difference). It should be noted that the audience was very interested in the Hebrew component of this show.

Sarah English and Amelia Sargisson do their best to emote as Sarah and Raina but they seem more posturing than loving. There is a lot of shouting in the audience’s direction and we learn that Raina had lost her parents when she was five.

Abby and David struggle with the fact that she is past child bearing and it comes to the boiling point when she really just wants to get it on. Raina goes through great lengths to show that she is scientific and that she doesn’t believe Sarah is seeing her father’s ghost. Sarah is moody and sullen and tries to give Raina a way out of the relationship. Abby also doesn’t believe Sarah is seeing her father’s ghost. No one in this family believes in ghosts at all, that’s a problem for Sarah. Both the scenes and dialogue have almost an abrupt feel. There are a lot of scenes in this short play and I missed a sense of fluidity.

I’m not really sure how the two stories tie in or whether they were meant to tie in. I would have much preferred to go deeper into one story so that I could enter the emotional world of the characters. Personally, I would have been happy to have never left the Rabbi’s office. Instead, the award winning script is fleshed into a play where people talk at, rather than to, each other. We see the words on the page – witty, interesting, award winning words – but without the connection they so desperately need.

  • Haunted plays at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave )
  • Show times: Fri. August 10, 10:30 PM, Wed. August 15, 5:30 PM, Sun. August 12, 12:30 PM, Thurs. August 16, 10:30 PM, Mon. August 13, 8:00 PM, Sun. August 19, 3:00 PM
  • All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://ticketwise.ca, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the Lower Ossington Box Office (located at 100A Ossington Avenue) Mon. – Sun. 12PM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows