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Maria Dizzia, David Andrew McMahon, Emily Donahoe,
T. Ryder Smith, and Garrett Neergaard in Apparition
(Photo © Aaron Epstein)
It's the wrong holiday season for Apparition. This atmosphere-heavy production might have been a pleasant Halloween treat but, judged solely on its own merits, it comes up wanting. Anne Washburn's play consists of disconnected scenes and monologues about spooky situations. The writing is littered with clichés, made-up Latin phrases, and ho-hum dialogue. Nothing here is truly scary.

The five cast members (Maria Dizzia, Emily Donahoe, David Andrew McMahon, Garrett Neergaard, and T. Ryder Smith) play multiple roles, none of which are given a name. McMahon delivers a tiresome speech about a whisky and soda that vanished when he was alone in a room, Dizzia has a lengthy monologue about a jittery voice whispering to her over the telephone, and the entire company offers a retelling of Macbeth. One bright spot of the evening is a scene between Smith and Neergaard involving a mysterious paper bag, a discussion of bus stops, and the eating of small animals. Smith is particularly captivating, his deep, rich tones lending an air of foreboding to the proceedings. The other actors do the best they can but cannot overcome the limitations of the material.

On the positive side, the production looks fantastic. Andromache Chalfant's set is like a shifting dreamscape, with a candelabra, a window, etc. appearing, disappearing, and reappearing. A smoke machine generates a layer of fog that is beautifully lit by Jane Cox, whose moody lighting design is the show's greatest asset. Christal Weatherly's costumes have a Victorian look, with occasional out-of-place sartorial elements such as a brown T-shirt that Donahoe wears underneath her black lace dress. Sound designer Darron L. West mixes everyday noises such as a phone's busy signal with eerie instrumental music, to good effect.

With such strong design elements in place, director Les Waters is able to create some arresting visual images: the single beam of a flashlight pierces the darkness, a dimly lit figure crouches behind a window pane, and the staging of one scene is reversed to give us a different perspective on the action. Unfortunately, the pacing is oftentimes lethargic, and the production never builds to a climax; at the end of the performance I attended, the audience was slow to start clapping, mainly because they weren't sure if the show was over.

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