This writer savors opportunities to see intellectually stimulating material presented onstage. So Sunday, October 20, 2013 found me sitting in Baltimore's Center Stage, in anticipation of what was to come from a play entitled 'Dance of the Holy Ghosts'.
'Dance of the Holy Ghosts' is the second installment of the Theater for the Heart series, which is the theme for the fifty-first season of Baltimore's renowned theater.
The play has dual settings, taking place in both California and Louisiana.
The storyline centers around The witty, but vulgar older character, Oscar, and is a retrospective into his life as he made decisions, some of which, did not provide positive results. The play begins with the old man, Oscar, alone and talking to himself as if he is actually speaking to another person. He is visited by a younger man, Marcus, who turns out to be his grandson, and thus begins the flood of Oscar's memories. Throughout the play, it is evident that Oscar is battling demons as his various roles conflict in his quest for his own identity.
This play focuses upon various levels as it explores the relationships between father-daughter, husband-wife, grandfather-grandson, and friends. Oscar's relationship with his daughter, Darlene, is strained because he was an absentee father, preferring to play his guitar and leaving wife and mother, Viola, to do so. Viola subsequently succumbs to temptation in order to feed their daughter.
In addition, the story juxtapositions two love-sick men--the grandfather and the grandson, as Oscar tries to hold onto his wife, after twenty years and Marcus is trying to make sense of his feelings for a young classmate.
Viola, the wife, eventually becomes ill and does not recognize the love-sick Oscar, who takes her from the hospital because, in his eyes, she is still his wife.
As 'Dance of the Holy Ghosts' progresses, the disrespect and dysfunctionality of the family is perpetuated to another generation as Marcus begins to interact with his grandfather, Oscar.
The language in the play is often explosive and obscene as Oscar, a blues player, interacts with each character, and explains his relationships. While the subtitle reads, 'a play on memory', this writer found that is really a play on memories- both that of Oscar and Viola. It is a true depiction of what happens as people get older.
Theater patron, Delores Lee, said she expected to hear more of music, but was enjoying the dynamics between the actors.
The six actors and their roles are: Michael Genet(Oscar), Sheldon Best (Marcus), Denise Burse (Viola), Jasmine Carmichael (Tanisha), Doug Eskew (Willie/Father/Michael/Bluesy Tux) and chandra thomas (Darlene).
'Dance of the Holy Ghosts', written by playwright Marcus Gardley and directed by artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah, makes a powerful statement about how we view/judge others in our society without knowing the full story.
The play runs from October 9 - November 17 in The Head Theater at 700 N. Calvert Street.