Mysteries abound with RDC’s The Ghost Sonata

It’s tough to adequately describe The Ghost Sonata, Red Deer College Theatre Studies’ final dramatic offering of the season.

Replete with an ethereal, dream-like feel, performances run through this Saturday in Studio A at the Arts Centre. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. A matinee is also set for April 16 at 1 p.m.

Written by August Strindberg in the early 20th century and translated by Carl R. Mueller, the unusual story follows a student by the name of Arkenholz (played by Chantelle Waschuk, Tucker New, Adam Hynes and Jordan Galloway) who speculates on the lives of the rich inhabitants of a nearby apartment.

It’s a dark, lonely streetscape the audience is swept into, and we watch as Arkenholz glimpses the shifting lights and shadows and other goings-on through windows from the street below.

When he meets the Jacob Hummel (played by Dan Vasquez, Brandon De Jong, Derick Neumeier and Chris LeVann) he begins to unravel a connection between the old man and his own life.

And while the man helps find him a way into the apartment and the opportunity to meet those people he had only glimpsed from the street, Arkenholz finds the world in which they live it not at all what he had imagined. Secrets abound, as do the stark differences between what was assumed and what is real.

Strindberg is considered one of the pioneering artists who explored expressionism. The Ghost Sonata comes from this later expressionist and symbolic period of work and was completed four years before his death in 1912.

RDC’s version looks absolutely stunning – the versatile set is a constant wonder, as is the brilliant lighting design which swings from splashy, vibrant and bold to dull and muted – depending on what’s unfolding onstage. Much praise must go to Patrick Beagan who oversaw both elements for the production.

And thanks to Sui-Fan Wong, the sound effects – lonely, haunting and poignant and at times beautiful – also fit perfectly with the emotional nuances of the play.

Carrie Hamilton’s extraordinary costumes emphasize the dark, melancholy tones that continually surface throughout as well.

On the acting side, the students do a solid job of capturing the oddness and downright bizarre nature of much of what the story taps into. Krysta Larsen turns in a fascinating performance as the creepy mummy and Kayla Dewdney was terrific as the cook as well. Altogether, the students captured the moods and characters of their roles well, even though some of them didn’t have much stage time to do so because of the nature of the script.

Admittedly, some of the plot is a bit tough to follow — Strindberg’s mind was clearly storehouse of bold, even brazen creativity. So when certain parts don’t instantly make sense to a modern audience, portions of the play tend to feel flat.

Overall, its raw and striking originality via sound, light and visual power lend much to its ‘workability’ but not necessarily its ‘accessibility’ as a performance.

But thanks to the expression that is unrestrained throughout and the artistic wizardry that infuses so much into the production on the technical side of things, there aren’t many moments when things drag.

Director Mieko Ouchi has done a remarkable job with a challenging story that has much to explore with its stylized approach. It’s also described as a ‘chamber’ play, meaning it’s performed with a small cast with a minimalized set in a relatively small space.

The Ghost Sonata is recommended for ages 14 and up.

For tickets, call 403-340-4455 or check out www.ticketmaster.ca.

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