Monday, February 1, 2010

The Old Globe's Whisper House

Whisper House


Part musical theatre, part indie rock concert, Duncan Sheik and Keith Jarrow’s world premiere musical Whisper House is not the kind of traditional show that can be put into a box, neatly wrapped up and dismissed as just another new musical. Ethereal, timeless, and timely, it creates an artistic presence that lives in the gap between worlds, much like the ghosts (and the humans) that inhabit the lighthouse in the story.

It is 1942 during the height of World War II when suspicion and fear became powerful weapons between men. The singing ghosts (an outstanding David Poe and Holly Brook) begin the show by introducing us to the unusual cast of misfit characters, all of whom are also somehow caught between worlds.

There is 11-year old Christopher (A. J. Foggiano) who comes to the lighthouse after his fighter pilot father has been shot down by the enemy and his mother has had a nervous breakdown. He is to live with his Aunt Lily (Mare Winningham), an isolated, fearful woman whose life has all but passed her by. Lily’s Japanese hired hand Yasuhiro (Arthur Acuna) is a loner, haunted by the unnamed ghosts of his past and even Sheriff Charles (Ted Koch) and Lieutenant Rando (Kevin Hoffmann) are caught between the prejudice and fear of the time, attempting to do the right thing, based on their own limited understanding of the world. And do not forget the ghosts - tragically tied to Lily's lighthouse and a world left behind too soon.

As the story unravels, we see how fear affects the decisions people make and what happens when we forget to consider the consequences of our actions. It is ultimately a lesson in not letting fear run our lives, and also about the relationships we create that hold our lives together.

Director Peter Askin, musical director Jason Hart and the stellar cast have succeeded in exposing the delicate balance between our ideals and our reality, making Whisper House an intriguing exploration of human behavior. Long after I left the theatre I continued to think about what I had seen and how relevant its message is in today’s world.

Whisper House

Michael Schweikardt’s multi-level futuristic lighthouse design beautifully connects the past, present and future, linking the characters together in their separate worlds, as well as creating space to look between the lines of what they say into the imaginings of their minds.

Add to that the additional production elements of lighting (Matthew Richards), sound (Dan Moses Schreier) and costumes (Jenny Mannis) and the haunting melancholy onstage is complete.

Currently running through February 21 at The Old Globe in San Diego, this is a musical not to be missed. www.theoldglobe.org/.

Photos by Craig Schwartz

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