The horror genre is so in these days. You see the title and you think, “Cool! A ghost story!” Shelby Company’s Real Dead Ghosts is a ghost story, of sorts. A young couple, who happen to enjoy hunting ghosts, visit a cabin to celebrate their anniversary but the only thing haunting these two are the past. And the past is not a metaphor for ghosts.
Real Dead Ghosts by Jonathan A. Goldberg follows young married couple Amber and Graham as they’re beginning a, hopefully, romantic weekend. One thing leads to another and a sudden onslaught of secrets begins spewing out of their mouths. This leads to an exposition heavy play that lacked originality. From past loves to job revelations to discovering happiness, the only thing that separates this piece from other relationship plays is the ghost hunting element. Thrust these two into their apartment or a coffee shop and speak the same words, you immediately dismiss it. For the majority of the play, you watch an energetic and fun Graham, a man-child of sorts, played dynamically by Nathaniel Kent, battle with his whiney and trustless wife, Amber. Lara Hillier’s Amber certainly brings the highs of pain and disappointment, but her performance is a bit monotone as, no matter the topic, she just whines and complains. Hillier wanted to discover the moments of power but with Goldberg’s character not fleshed out enough, it suffered greatly. Fortunately Kent’s performance made up for it.
The highlight of the play comes when the power in the cabin goes out and Amber and Amber are forced to converse in the dark with the aid of two flashlights, and some stage lights from Dan Henry. Courtney Ulrich’s simplicity in direction for this moment was memorable. Due to the elements, the characters were glued to the floor, and it worked. The stability and solitude in darkness grounded the actors nicely. When we were able to see, the world that scenic designer April Bartlett created was perfect to festival setting and the austerity of the play.
If you’re going in expecting ghosts and twists, you’ll be waiting and waiting. Instead, you’ll be seeing a string of conversations you feel awkward watching. What Real Dead Ghosts lacks in script originality is certainly made up for in design.