The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title The Canterville Ghost
Organization FreeFall Stage
Date(s) of show September 26 - November 2, 2014
Reviewer Gerry Camp

As Halloween approaches, FreeFall Stage has opened its, well, not at all terrifying ghost story, Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost.” A visually beautiful production, the show is directed in great style by FreeFall’s guiding light, Deanne (DeeDee) Eldridge. You notice immediately the beautiful set featuring the elaborately furnished drawing room at Canterville Chase. This English estate has been leased by Hiram Otis, the American Ambassador to Queen Victoria’s court in 1887. The costumes, created by Tana Coburn, who also adopted the script from a Wilde short story and performs as the Ambassador’s wife, are also gorgeous, especially the women’s gowns.

The story begins as the Otis family moves into the Chase. They are warned by the owner, Lord Canterville, played with proper pomposity by one of Folsom’s busiest actors, Paul Greisen, that the Chase is haunted by the Ghost of Sir Simon De Canterville, who, after killing his wife more than 300 years earlier, was walled up to starve to death somewhere in the mansion. The Americans don’t believe in ghosts, so the news of the haunting does not deter their decision to move in. One night soon after, they meet the Ghost wandering the halls at midnight, moaning and rattling chains. Failing to be terrified, Ambassador Otis offers the Ghost a lubricant to quiet the noise his chains make so the family can get some sleep.

The Ghost is insulted, and describes how he has terrified other visitors over the centuries. The biggest affront to his haunting, however, is the Ambassador’s two youngest children, Savanna Arana and Jaymes Escobedo, who throw pillows at him and even dress in sheets with a sign around the neck of their ghost, declaring it to be “The Onlie True and Originale Spook.”

The member of the Otis family who makes the biggest impression on the Ghost is their beautiful teenage daughter Virginia, who, because of her interest in the history of the house, strikes up a friendship with Sir Simon. Upon learning from him that he knew Will Shakespeare and was, in fact, the inspiration for the ghost of Hamlet’s father, she decides to stage for the family’s entertainment the ghost’s scene from Hamlet with the Ghost portraying the ghost. Virginia turns out to be the key to Sir Simon’s ultimate salvation.

All members of the cast fully inhabit their roles, taking the silly plot with utter seriousness. Several of the players stand out. Stephen Watson is excellent as the no-nonsense Ambassador as is Tana Colburn as his wife, whose main interest is in remodeling the mansion. Taryn Colburn is charming as the adventurous Virginia. The star of the show is Todd Gearou, who overacts hilariously as the frustrated Ghost. (I must disclose that, having acted in two of FreeFall’s productions, I have performed with Stephen Watson, Paul Greisen, and Todd Gearou as well as several other members of the cast. I do not think that my friendship with these actors has prejudiced my opinion of their excellence in this show.)

The script has its weaknesses. It has more characters than it needs, and the second act, in which Virginia disappears for a while, seems too long. And being an adaptation of a story by Wilde, it could hardly be expected to match the wit of his great comedies like “The Importance of Being Earnest.” I would classify it as a cross between “Downton Abbey” and a television sitcom, a combination which works, making for a delightful evening of entertainment. If you enjoy beautifully performed silliness, I strongly recommend “The Canterville Ghost.” And bring the kids; they’ll like it as much as you will. Fittingly, FreeFall is having a special Halloween performance, with treats for all and a discount of 50% for those coming dressed up as a “fancy ghost.”

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