With all the gay, gay gay theatre opening this month, you may wonder why I'm reviewing a show that has no ostensible relevance to our community, rather than one of thos other high-profile entries. First off, I am not so shallow as to believe that gay audiences can't relate or have no interest in a play if it does not feature queer characters or seemingly obligatory nudity. Secondly, I myself have burned out on way too much poor theatre that caters to such whims-- and if you crave such, copious info on those shows is practically unavoidable in other publications. And lastly, Second Wind Productions' intriguing new bio-play, GHOST IN THE LIGHT, is the kind of unheralded little gem that is likely to have escaped your notice without my diligent assistance! (Full disclosure: the playwright/director of the show, Ian Walker is somewhat of a friend in that we see each other ocasionally at mutual friend's social events-- but he is not so close that I wouldn't tell him-- and more importantly, you, my reading audience-- if I thought his show was crap!)
Despite a few technical glitches on opening night, GHOST IN THE LIGHT, is anything but-- a compelling show focusing on the true-life tale of a little known Dutch art forger, Han Van Meegeren, who, unhappily slaving away in impoverished obscurity, found fame and fortune by forging "masterpieces" attributed to Vermeer and others... only to be suspected of collaborating with the enemy during WWII after most of his art works were bought up by the Nazis. The title refers both to a shadowy figure that Han was unable to erase from the under-painting of one of his pictures-- which thankfully allowed him to prove his innocence-- and also to the larger theme of unacknowledged talent flickering away without notice. Although the opening scenes of each act, including an extended flashback, could use some judicious cutting, the script itself contains some terrific writing, and Walker's large cast does well with his dense prose (aside from a few hurriedly flubbed lines here and there). In particular, John Whittle does a bang-up job, with some lovely nuances, as the tormented Han; Andi C. Trindle Walker matches him well as devoted wife Johanna; and diminutive George Frangides proves a dynamo as the Art Commission's investigator interrogating Han.
Presented in ahandsomely mounted production (with sumptuous, if somewhat anachronistic non-period costumes) at the intimate Traveling Jewish Theatre (at 470 Florida Street in The City), GHOST IN THE LIGHT is the kind of play that too often gets ignored in the shuffle, but is well worth seeking out for adventuresome theatregoers... and which I suspect may have a long life elsewhere after this initial production. The play runs throught June 9th.
by Doug Gordy, SLANT MAGAZINE