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Haunted House

Daniel Roberts' incoherent play is set in the Long Beach, New Jersey backyard of an antiquated summer amusement enterprise. logo
Jordan Charney in Haunted House
(© Caroline Dorn)
One wonders if Daniel Roberts is attempting a spin on J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan in his dark comedy Haunted House, now at the Irish Arts Center, since he uses Peter and Wendy as the names for an incestuous half-brother and half sister. Moreover, Peter is mentally challenged, which means he's never quite grown up, just as the head lost boy in the children's classic refuses to leave childhood. But whatever Roberts is trying to do here beats me -- except that after a seemingly endless 85 minutes, I decided Roberts could be doing anything other than writing a coherent play.

For the record, the action is set in the Long Beach, New Jersey backyard of the eponymous run-down house, which is run by Cy Dunn (the usually estimable Jordan Charney) and where slow-witted Peter (Jason Altman) is the janitor and malcontent waitress Wendy (Meghan Miller) stops in to vent her spleen when not checking whether their long-absent mother, Sorcha, has finally returned.

To give the trio a lift to their tedious day, personality Lucy Darling (Diana Cherkas) comes by to film a mini-documentary on the place, which she knew as a Jersey youth. She's accompanied by skinny, motor-mouthed Moses (Jason Blaine), who eventually objects to the body contact Lucy enjoys with Peter. To retaliate, he puts the moves on resistant Wendy. By the way, Moses thinks he's quite the wit (as does Roberts), as he lets out an unbroken string of groaners, such as this one about the Lucy-Peter situation: "If I'm losing Stella to Stanley, she should know where his Kowalski's been."

What this all signifies is never clarified. Maybe Roberts sees the haunted house -- the inside of which is only partially glimpsed towards the end -- as a metaphor for this crazy world we all live and languish in. Maybe with all the jargon about today's technology spouted at an antiquated summer amusement enterprise, it's a commentary on old pastimes clashing with new. Who knows? Who cares?

It's enough to say that Haunted House wastes the talents of five apparently competent actors and director Brian Ziv. Or should I says six actors, since the awaited Sorcha (not credited in the program) returns at play's end and begins cleaning the outdoor grill. And all along I'd assumed she had read the play and had gotten out while the getting was good.

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