Author Archive for: ‘KedarAdour’

The Ghost Sonata an auspicious start to the Strindberg cycle.

STRINDBERG CYCLE: The Chamber Plays in Rep. Production translations by Paul Walsh. Directed by Rob Melrose. The Cutting Ball Theater in residence at EXIT on Taylor, 277 Taylor St., San Francisco. Part 1: The Ghost Sonata; Part 2: The Pelican and The Black Glove; Part 3: Storm and Burned House. October 12 – November 18. For specific dates call 415-525-1205 or

The Ghost Sonata an auspicious start to the Strindberg cycle.

Cutting Ball Theater dedicated to mounting experimental, modernist and absurdist plays is honoring August Strindberg on the 100th anniversary of his death. Their undertaking is as ambitious as one can imagine with the production of his five Chamber plays in repertory and set aside one day where Strindberg aficionados and those who have a touch of masochism to view all five plays at one sitting on a Saturday or Sunday running from noon to 11 pm!

The Chamber Plays were written in his latter years and designed to be performed in his Intimate Theatre in Stockholm. According to Artistic Director Rob Melrose the Cutting Ball workspace is about equal in size to Strindberg’s Theatre.

After the opening performance last night, we had the lucky chance to chat with the translator Paul Walsh who is professor of Dramatugy and Dramatic Criticism at the Yale School of Drama He collaborated with Melrose and Paige Chamber to complete the final project. Walsh emphasizes that his translation is not an adaptation and he has strived to keep the semblance of Swedish speech patterns. It was specifically translated for the stage as Strindberg would have it if he were alive today. Strindberg has added to the musical connotation by labeling them Opus 1 through Opus 5.

The Ghost Sonata is Opus 3 and if there is a reason why this was staged first it is moot since the five plays do not share a single plot nor do they share characters. They do share similar character types such as The Old Man, The young Mother, and The Young Girl etc. In The Ghost Sonata Strindberg visualizes a three story apartment and three parts of the play. The first being on the street in front of the apartment, the first floor and a third higher inner sanctum filled with fragrant hyacinths to protect The Girl (Caitlyn Louchard) from the offensive smells from the outside world.

Before the protagonist The Student (Carl Holvick-Thomas) reaches the upper levels that he so much desires, he has to go through a Purgatory type experience to reach “paradise” that is more like hell. His second encounter is with Director Hummel, The Old Man (James Carpenter) in a wheel chair. Hummel is the personification of evil with enough dastardly deeds performed in his past life to earn the severe comeuppance he eventual suffers.

There is a Milkmaid (Ponder Goddaerd) that only the Student can see, a mummy in a closet who speaks like a parrot and comes to life to torment Hummel, The Cook who sucks the nourishment out of the food before it is served, an ethereal Lady in Black and others who add to the confusion. It is an amalgamation of reality, imagination and ghost story filled with lies, vengeance, death and love. If this were not a supposed fine example of the absurdist trend, it could be called ludicrous.

All the actors (James Carpenter, Robert Parsons, Caitlyn Louchard, Danielle O’Hare, Carl Holvick-Thomas, David Sinaiko, Ponder Goddard, Paul Gerrior, and Gwyneth Richards, along with Anne Hallinan, Nick Trengove, Michael Moerman, and Alex Shafer) perform with intensity and appear to believe in the play. Melrose controls the action on the black box stage with great help from his production and design staff. According to the press notes there is a lot of intellectualism and serious insight within the text. Most of it escaped this reviewer.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of