Review: An Abruptly Ended Relationship Leads to a Funeral in Ghosting
The Irish Rep hosts a streaming production of Jamie Beamish and Anne O'Riordan's solo play.
If you've ever dipped your toe into the online dating pool, chances are you have been "ghosted." That's when you are chatting with someone, prospects for an actual meet-up look good, and then they suddenly stop responding. That's not exactly what happened to the protagonist of Jamie Beamish and Anne O'Riordan's Ghosting, now available for streaming through the Irish Repertory Theatre. She thought she was in a serious relationship with a man, and so did everyone else, until the day he completely disappeared from her life.
The circumstances surrounding this mystery and its fallout are revealed through an obscenity-laced monologue delivered by the ghosted woman in question, Sí (pronounced "she"). Her name may be a nod toward universality, but there is nothing ordinary about the way Mark (voiced by Andrew Macklin) cut off all communication from her, nor in the way he appears in London (where Sí has fled) standing at the foot of her bed six years after the fact. One might think that Sí's next logical step would be to file a restraining order, but even stranger events lead her back to her hometown in Ireland to attend a most unexpected funeral.
I'll say no more about the plot, shocking reveals being one of the strong points of this 75-minute (mostly) solo show. Through the militantly independent Sí, Beamish and O'Riordan comment on the oppressive social forces that lead smart women to leave Ireland for the comforting anonymity of a big city like London. They also touch on the alienation an expat might feel when returning to a country that no longer feels like home. This has been a popular theme in Irish drama for as long as there has been a diaspora, and was perhaps best summed up in a single monologue in Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Ghosting doesn't add much to the conversation, and feels like the last of its kind now that Irish society has been transformed by the influx of foreign wealth taking advantage of low corporate tax rates. Then again, maybe not.
Happily, Beamish and O'Riordan season these themes with savory language: "I've tried everything to help me sleep," Sí reveals, "Meditation, medication, Master…Chef." Such clever wordplay is one of the joys of seeing contemporary drama at the Irish Rep, and it is hilarious in the mouth of O'Riordan, who played Sí in a 2020 streaming production for Theatre Royal, Waterford (the same one now on offer through Irish Rep). O'Riordan is particularly good at embodying the 21st-century characters Sí meets on her odyssey, including a Waterford native who speaks with a California valley girl lilt and who named her child "Biscuit."
Beamish directed this production for streaming, and while there are a few hair-raising moments (facilitated mostly through Dermot Quinn's unpredictable lighting), Ghosting never fully exploits the horror-inducing methods of the camera. One can easily imagine a truly terrifying live production in a dimly lit and intimate space, with a performer who knows how to scare (the high bar for this kind of theater was set by Daphne Rubin-Vega in Empanda Loca). Unfortunately, this streaming version of Ghosting is a passing shadow of the play that could be.