Saturday, October 28, 2023

Ghost Quartet at Theatre Elision

Our good friend Cherry and Spoon calls Theatre Elision's Ghost Quartet "Musically gorgeous and truly haunting." Okay! We're in!

This spooky season has been absolutely jam-packed with theater goodness, but we couldn't let another year go by without seeing Ghost Quartet (this is Theatre Elision's fifth production of this show.) which runs through October 28.

If you're familiar with theater darling Dave Malloy, creator of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, you know you're in for atmosphere, a lot of story, and lovely music.

Ghost Quartet is a little complicated, so we'll let Theatre Elision tell you about it!

"A camera breaks and four friends drink in an interwoven tale spanning seven centuries, with a murderous sister, a treehouse astronomer, a bear, a subway, and the ghost of Thelonious Monk. The story draws from several fairy tales and "ghost stories", including Snow White and Rose Red, Edgar Allen Poe's Fall of the House of Usher, and One Thousand and One Nights (commonly known as Arabian Nights). There may also be some Legend of Zelda references you might recognize. Cast members present the story and music as a "concept album" and accompany themselves on a wide variety of instruments, including keyboard, ukulele, guitar, mandolin, banjo, autoharp, dulcimer and more percussion instruments than you can count."

Well, okay then! Here's what we thought!

This is our first visit to Theatre Elision's space and we had a lovely time. Spacious lobby/gathering space, ample restrooms, a small bar, and a very welcoming atmosphere. The theater space is spacious but cozy, especially with the eclectic Ghost Quartet set of lamps, comfy seating, and the feel of a beloved family attic space. Musical Director Harrison Wade welcomes the audience to the play and cautions us to not try to figure out exactly what's happening in this abstract collection of retold stories. Just let it wash over you, and let it wash over us we did.

Beautifully sung and performed by the wildly talented cast, who switch off between an array of  instruments seamlessly, the songs are introduced as tracks on an album with some slight dialogue in between. Only clocking in at 90 minutes with no intermission, the word "idyll" keeps coming to mind. It's not a completely passive experience, though. At times, the cast passes out a variety of percussion instruments and involves the audience in creating the experience. There's also a bit of whiskey tasting for those who imbibe. 

The entire cast (Maureen O'Malley, Abilene Olson, Christine Wade, Tristen Sima, Emily Hensley,  Hannah Bakke, and musical director Harrison Wade) are all excellent musicians and singers. When the entire cast harmonizes together, it's truly magical. Even in this cast, Abilene Olson was a standout for us with her gorgeous voice. She and Christine Wade made a wonderful pair as they glide from character to character. 

It's true, we didn't 100% understand what was happening, but it was a lovely experience nonetheless. And the final song is so beautifully done that we left the show floating on a cloud of theater magic. We definitely recommend adding a visit to Theatre Elision to your theatergoing list.