Ghost Light Is an Entrancing Evening of Grimly Comic Short-Short Plays

Deborah Puette in Ghost Light
Deborah Puette in Ghost Light
Photo by Troy Blendell

It’s easy to understand director Chris Fields’ impatience to get Ghost Light, the entrancing new evening of playlets by playwright Tommy Smith, before an audience. The lyrically allusive, 30-minute program, which stars Deborah Puette, is actually intended to be performed on the set of whatever play it follows. That will come later when Fields transfers it to the bill of Miki Johnson’s full-length American Falls, which opens in September.

Here the pieces play under their own mordantly engaging steam as a synonym for the interstitial poetics of the stage itself, where meaning is found in the music of the language, and words open up onto haunting — and darkly grotesque — psychic landscapes unreachable by more pedestrian dramatic entertainments.

The empty seductiveness of the latter is the implicit subject of “The Fog,” in which Puette describes a mysterious waterfront cloud that a group of friends seeks out in which to escape their quotidian existence only to find a more profoundly felt alienation.

“The Lotus Eaters” extends the metaphor as Puette plays a winsome consumer of the narcotic flowers from The Odyssey, luring Odysseus’ men into opiated ambivalence. In “Madelines,” which is the corrupted form of the Proustian “Madeleine,” Puette plays a memory-addled dilettante maker of corrupted and meaningless art films. “Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia” backs into an increasingly bleak portrait of a woman whose sterile existence — and reason for living — revolves around a despised cat.

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Puette ably makes use of Fields’ intimate staging (accented by Matt Richter’s lights) to make vivid Smith’s subtle ironies in monologues that range in feeling from the experimental flash fictions of Donald Barthelme to the early schizophrenic-styled writing of Peter Handke.

GO! Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre; 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater; through Aug. 27. (310) 307-3753, echotheatercompany.com.


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