Brennan Amonett & Gregory Maupin in Enter Ghost. Photo: Bill Brymer
Enter Ghost. an immersive haunted Hamlet experience
Conceived by Diana Grisanti, Steve Moulds, and Matt Wallace
Directed by Matt Wallace
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
First, it is not Hamlet. Second, this will be a hard review to write because it is almost impossible to tell you what Enter Ghost IS without spoilers.
What I can tell you is that this is a rare, perhaps unprecedented foray for Kentucky Shakespeare into producing a new work by contemporary playwrights, specifically, former Louisville residents Diana Grisanti and Steve Moulds working in collaboration with KY Shakes Producing Artistic Director Matt Wallace. I have most always liked Grisanti and Mould’s work, and this reconsideration of the characters and themes of Hamlet reminds me of Mould’s updating of Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, which I greatly admired when it was produced in 2013 by Commonwealth Theatre Center.
Here the playwriting team have pulled Shakespeare’s play inside out, using the scattered bones to reconstruct something new and framing it in a modern-day Old Louisville ghost story.
Two “Actor/Docents”, (Mollie Murk and Justin Jackson at their delightful nerdiest) conduct an introduction about Kentucky Shakespeare’s somewhat new but haunted building adjacent to Central Park, assuring us that, “Every word you hear is TRUE!” But actors are paid to lie, right? Or do they lead us to new and greater truths?
As the orientation winds up, each audience member is given a set of high-quality headphones to wear for the remainder of the experience. Divided into three groups, we were then led through several separate spaces to experience individual scenes. Every sound you hear comes through the headphones, which arguably makes this the most demanding effort Sound Designer Laura Ellis has executed for Kentucky Shakespeare, involving pre-recording extensive dialogue and creating myriad effects. The structure of the material relies much more on the soundtrack than usual, and Ellis’s work is nothing less than a triumph.
Donna Lawrence Downs’ costumes and the sets by Karl Anderson perfectly match those aural textures in all of their Hammer horror glory, as does the subtle but distinct make-up aided by Neill Robertson, and the intimate settings make the props from Ryan Bennett especially impactful. Jesse Alford manages to light no less than six spaces in a highly effective manner – no mean trick. The design work is particularly important here, and everyone is at the top of their game.The only thing missing is a dank and musty odor.
As for the performances, they are uniformly excellent but something that I fear discussing in detail for fear of spoilers. The structure restricts viewing all of the cast equally but I witnessed no one dropping the ball at any moment with a few specific moments that were especially creepy and, for my group, Adama Abramson was just haunting.
I will confess that I felt some trepidation. I’ve never been keen on haunted houses so an immersive ghost experience might have triggered some anxiety. In all fairness, it should. But Enter Ghost is moody and engrossing, not jump out of your seat scary. In fact, for much of the show there are no seats, so wear good shoes because you will spend most of the one-hour running time on your feet.
An October show for Halloween is now a firmly established tradition for this company, and each has been an exploration of something new, often space – Titus Andronicus twice in raw warehouses, two radio plays in the Louisville Public Media studios, or the inaugural production in the new Kentucky Shakespeare home on Myrtle Street one year ago – but Enter Ghost might be the most intellectual; one part deconstruction, one part museum tour, one part…well, never mind, and a dash of haunted house. You may feel silly and anxious but the dread partially masks the fact that you will leave thinking differently about Hamlet. This production is akin to throwing all of the unnumbered pages of that play into the air and having to painstakingly put them back in order. It forces you to see the overly familiar with fresh eyes. For a company devoted to the works of William Shakespeare, this is a most crucial part of their mission.
And with a fine eye to what makes the supernatural so fascinating, Grisanti, Moulds, and Wallace also have the cyclical nature of existence on their minds, allowing a lingering dread to leave the theatre with you, bereft of the cozy conventions of theatre etiquette.
Featuring Adama Abramson, Brennan Amonett, Zachary Burrell, Jon Huffman, Justin Jackson, Gregory Maupin, Mollie Murk, Cherrie Vaughn
Enter Ghost. an immersive haunted Hamlet experience
October 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, & 29 @ 7:00* & 9:00 pm
October 9, 16, 23, & 30 @ 2:00 & 4:00 pm
*Several 7:00 pm performances were already sold out at press time.
616 Myrtle Street
Louisville, KY 40208
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.