I’ve been putting off writing this review, because it is the last review I’ll have the opportunity to write about a Ghost & Spice production, and I can hardly stand it. Last call, folks. The “small but mighty” company that has brought out two choice plays a year for 11 years will cease production at the end of this run. With their typical flair, the members chose Harold and Maude to go out on. Like Maude, they’ve chosen their time. Like Harold—I’m counting on this—the actors/directors/musicians who have formed Ghost & Spice’s tight creative cell will reappear in all their zesty talent in other local productions. In the meantime, there’s this hilarious, heart-full, play directed by Rachel Klem going on out at Common Ground Theatre through October 13.
Harold and Maude was written by Colin Higgins first as a screenplay, then it became a novel to go along with the 1971 film; in 1980 he published a stage play version. The movie did not do well at first, nor did the play. The unusual love story of faux-suicidal young Harold, living with his rich L.A. mother and despairing of life, and almost-80 Maude, who lives every day with all her senses, has over the years developed an audience, and really, it is a jewel.
With Joan Darling in the Maude role, doing acting that never for a second seems like acting, and everyone rising to meet her standard, Klem must have had a wonderful time staging this endearing script. On opening night (9/28), all were word-perfect, and Ishai Buchbinder as Harold was remarkable (I particularly loved the tree-liberating scene). As usual, Klem’s pacing was excellent, allowing enough space for emotions to be felt, while moving the action briskly along. All the comic timing was great—and there are many comic moments along with the tender ones. If this production doesn’t inspire you to get more out of life, you may be already dead yourself.
Quite a bit of the comedy was supplied by Melissa Lozoff as Harold’s mother, Mrs. Chasen. The character is an over-heated piece of work, and Lozoff nearly goes over the top with her—but not quite. Desperate to get Harold out of the house and going in life, rather than cooking up schemes to make himself appear mutilated or dead, she sets him up with three dates from a computer dating service. The dates are all played by Raven Whisnant (wigs!), who between times croons the songs studding the show, along with music meister Rus Hames. (They play in a little room behind a large window, separated from the action, but visible to the actors, and us. It is a clever touch, making the musicians into overwatching spirits.) Whisnant was very good as the three wildly different dates, but when she was singing, I had a hard time taking my eyes off her face to watch the action.
The cast is rounded out by the redoubtable John Murphy as the uncle/the priest, wide-ranging Jeff Alguire as the baffled cop/the sexually available psychiatrist, and Amanda Hahn as Mrs. Chasen’s maid. Hahn marches around taking care of the Chasens—her only speech consists of multiple screams and a stuttered “but…” Each time she comes and goes without a word, she seems to get bigger and more powerful.
Rachel Klem, who is also the managing director of G & S and of Common Ground Theatre, says tickets for the remaining shows are going fast. If you want to say your goodbyes to Ghost & Spice in person, don’t dally.