October 24, 2002


The Canterville Ghost

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning
















For more about Children's Theatre, please visit ctcharlotte.org.

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(special to the Charlotte Observer)

The Canterville Ghost, being performed by Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, features a miserable ghoul facing his own obsolescence. While the story is amusing, and offers an interesting pathway to redemption, I must write about the set.

Scenic Designer Kevin Raper transformed McGlohon Theatre into a haunted house worthy of both Alfred Hitchcock and Broadway. It has as many trick passageways as the Bat Cave. It is as duplicitous as an Escher painting. It is a study in black and white and hundreds of shades of gray. There is the requisite rickety staircase, a cobwebbed candelabra, crooked doorways, and suit of armor. In addition, walls turn, chairs move, panels disappear. The nuances of a color-free world have never been so vibrant. It is a stunning accomplishment.

The technical attributes make up for this disparate adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s short story. Tired of being haunted, Lord Canterville sells his castle to the American Otis family. The optimistic, scientifically oriented Otis family alternates between not believing in ghosts, and trying to solve this one’s problems with technology. In the first part of the play, the dialogue is annoyingly cartoonlike. It simultaneously relies on allusions to the revolutionary war and the crassness of Americans that was lost on the elementary school crowd.

But the children loved Mark Sutton as the ghost, and were especially were fond of his vulnerabilities. They roared when he was scared, and they listened in wonder as he explained his plan to drive away the Americans. Sutton was ably assisted by Gary Sivak’s sound design, which highlights horrifying moans and howls and the rattling of chains. The production’s mood is enhanced by lighting Designer Eric Winkenwerder’s lightening flashes, full moon, and illuminated blood.

Jill Bloede plays the British housekeeper Mrs. Umney, who has the look of Frankenstein’s bride, and the disposition of an ironing board. She is funniest when her demeanor unravels. Likewise, as the neighboring Duke of Cheshire, Anthony Cerrato is most humorous while fidgeting.

I overheard one boy say to another upon entering the theatre, "There ain’t no real ghosts, you idiot." But if the theatre was empty and the lights were low, I doubt either of them would have walked on that stage alone.

Lynn Trenning, October 24, 2002

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