“Ghost Light” Reviewed by Dan Berkowitz

There’s a terrific little restaurant in Atwater Village called Canelé, which offers tasty and imaginative main courses and desserts. To me, though, the best offer is made as you’re leaving, when a host proffers a basket of freshly-baked canelés and urges you to take one. A canelé is a fluted pastry, with a thick, caramelized crust and a custardy interior, redolent of vanilla and rum. When it’s done well – as it is at this namesake restaurant – it’s exquisite. A canelé is small, and won’t satisfy you if you’re hungry for a burger, but after a meal, it’s a perfect lagniappe.

Canelé the restaurant, among its other virtues, is about a 3 minute drive from the Atwater Village Theatre, where I recently saw Tommy Smith’s Ghost Light, directed by Chris Fields. The night I saw the show, it was the only thing on the bill, which was unusual, since the running time is less than half an hour. This caused Mr. Fields to make a curtain speech, explaining that the author’s intent was for Ghost Light to follow the performance of another show, on that show’s set, and this workshop production was the only time the piece would be seen by itself. Indeed, Ghost Light is scheduled to follow selected performances of American Falls – the next production of the Echo Theater Company – when that show opens in September.
 

Deborah Puette, photo by Troy Blendell

Deborah Puette, photo by Troy Blendell


 
For those of you who don’t work in the theatre, a “ghost light” is an electric light which is left on, usually near the center of the stage, whenever a theatre is closed and would otherwise be completely dark. These days, it’s primarily a safety measure, allowing the first person in to the theatre to traverse the stage en route to switching on the lights, without having to worry about tripping over set pieces or props in the dark.

The set of Ghost Light is a ghost light and a chair. Period. They will sit in front of the set of whatever play precedes it. It’s a simple setting, and Deborah Puette, the actress who performs the piece, is outfitted in a simple dress. When she starts to speak, however, things grow complex.
 

Deborah Puette, photo by Troy Blendell

Deborah Puette, photo by Troy Blendell

 

Ghost Light is a series of four monologues, delivered in different voices and accents. It’s like a short story collection, with some of the stories eerie and atmospheric, some satiric, some evocative, and some… well, whatever you want them to be. The four segments are titled “The Fog,” “Lotus Eaters,” “Madelines,” and “Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia” (yes, I had to look it up – it’s fear of the number 666 – and no, I have no idea why the word is so long…), and you’ll hear about sailors, erections, cats, and fog, among other things.

Ms Puette is an attractive and subtle actress, who clearly differentiates the four stories and makes them intriguing and precise. It’s not a flashy performance, and that’s in tune with the overall tone of the piece: Ghost Light isn’t meant to bowl you over, but rather to serve as a bit of a nightcap before you head home after an evening at the theatre.
 

Deborah Puette, photo by Troy Blendell

Deborah Puette, photo by Troy Blendell

 

One person associated with the production said the piece is “meant to use the energy of the previous performance to fuel its own themes. It’s a morsel, dessert, the ‘B side of the record.’”

Or, if you’ve just had dinner at that restaurant not too far away, a canelé. As such, it’s perfect – a small delight to send you off smiling into the night.

Ghost Light
Written by Tommy Smith
Directed by Chris Fields

Wednesday and Thursday, August 26 and 27
And following selected performances of American Falls

Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Tickets: 310-307-3753 or go to www.EchoTheaterCompany.com


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