nytheatre.com review by Amy Lee Pearsall
December 8, 2010
“Diane?” “Steven, I’m in the kitchen!”
So begins Jack Ferver’s Rumble Ghost, a dance/theatre piece steeped in equal parts camp and existential agony now showing at PS 122. Even as the audience loudly filters in to find seats with the stage dark and lights on full blast in the house, the performance opens with a repeated reenactment of the first moments of the 1982 film Poltergeist.
As the audience quiets, suddenly in tune to the fact that the performance has already begun, the scene continues to replicate itself as the performers slowly narrow the physical space that they are exploring. Finally, the stage lights blast on and the closing repetition of the text is given by actors Ferver and Christian Coulson as they face one another, sitting on their hands and knees. The remaining ensemble members—dressed in shades of black and gray and formerly acting as set dressing—spring to life to illustrate a house and a relationship in turmoil. The ballet-based movement of Reid Bartelme and Breanna O’Mara brings lyricism to the proceedings, their fluid lines mirroring one another from across the stage. In stark contrast, Ferver’s choreography performed by Michelle Mola and Benjamin Ford Asriel seems based in tortured acts of sadism and masochism: a shirt comes up over a head to act as a strait-jacket of sorts on a sullen-faced Mola; Asriel writhes backwards across the bare black stage, alternating between slapping himself in the face and grabbing his crotch, mouth agape in a silent scream.
Ferver moves the action along with a deadpan, center stage description of a tree outside trying to steal their son and how the ubiquitous Carol Ann—absent physically from this piece—seems to have disappeared. Carlye Eckert as the psychic splays herself across an upstage doorway, suggesting that she is the pathway between one world and the next, before frenetically tearing around the stage to create a sense of a storm coming. Eventually, she winds up stretched out prostrate on the floor, channeling the spirit of the little girl lost. The entire ensemble breaks out into a cacophony of screams and yells and the stage goes to black, ending the first part of the piece.
The second part of Rumble Ghost opens with the brief strobe effect of two overhead florescent lights flickering, illuminating a group therapy session led by Eckert where the actors sit in a circle on stage, each confronting their inner child. There are brief moments of movement downstage provided by O’Mara and Bartelme, but otherwise the action is limited to the actors sitting in the circle, addressing one another by their real first names.
In this hour-long piece, I appreciated the parallel Ferver draws here between the absent and yet omnipresent Carol Ann in a fixed-upper of a house with issues and the concept of the fixer-up life with the often afflicted inner child who resides unseen inside of us. That said, I would have enjoyed seeing more of the movement-driven reinterpretation of the wealth of material that is Poltergeist, with perhaps an abbreviation of the borderline tedious opening sequence. But overall, Ferver’s Rumble Ghost is a frequently humorous, occasionally grotesque look at the human spirit and that which intermittently haunts us.