This Week in Theater
by Rose Desena
Apparently, Eugene O’Neill was a haunted man; this must have intrigued Jovanka Bach because she wrote a play about his ghosts.
O’Neill (John Difusco) is pretty damaged. He sees and speaks to dead people. “O’Neill’s Ghosts” is a long story about a talented writer who lives in emotional torment. The audience is brought into his misery as he sits in his office trying to write a novel about his childhood. In reality, it’s just to help him come to terms with his life and a feeble attempts to make himself feel better about his son, whom he drove to his early death.
ONeill’s family was troubled to say the least. His brother died from cirrhosis of the liver; he carried a burden that was not his alone; his childhood was spent in a family that had to cope with a terrible loss. No one was sure who was to blame but somehow the two kids were left to believe it was all their fault. Now, I agree the O’Neill boys had it rough but as hard lives go, it wasn’t anything that shocking.
Their mother (Penny Orloff) was so distraught by her hardships that she drowned her sorrows in morphine and lived in a never-never land until she died. O’Neill’s father was your basic emotionally absent farther who never thought much of Eugene. Bud (Michael Vaccaro) is Eugene’s son who has a lot of issues with dear old dad. Guess what? Eugene relates to his son the same way his dad related to him. Wow, how original! The only character that had any redeeming qualities is the dying dog whom we never see; he is on the stage like some mascot hidden in a little dog bed. I couldn’t figure out if it was a ghost or an actual character. They never walked or fed the poor thing, so of course it was going to die.
Each ghost comes and goes with the most animated one being his son, Bud. It took me the first 20 minutes to realize Bud was drunk, which you learn, as the play moves on, was pretty much his constant state of being. Unfortunately, what’s sad is he would have been very successful had he let go of his crap? Did anyone hear of therapy for heaven’s sakes?
Eugene’s true love, Carlotta (Lisa Thayer), is a stunning example of narcissism. She seems to feed off of Eugene’s suffering while wallowing in her own selfish existence. Again, I wasn’t sure if she was real. She was just so over the top. The play was not hard to follow since there wasn’t much there. As a matter of fact, as far as dysfunctional families go the O’Neill’s weren’t very interesting. Furthermore, I just didn’t care about any of the characters. At one point during the production, I put my head in my lap and repeated quietly to myself “You’re Killing Me!”, “You’re really killing me!”
This exact same production was done in 2007, and after reading some of the reviews, it seems nothing has changed.
Written by: Jovanka Bach
Directed by: John Stark
Runs through Sept 28th
A Guest production at the Odyssey
Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles CA
Reservations: 310 477 2055