A ‘Hungry Ghost,’ satiated, at Skylight Theatre

Reviews · Theater

It’s everyone’s nightmare … to have a very weird white man, a hermit who lives in the woods, pry apart your sliding-glass doors and invade your crib, your private space, your digs, your boite, your last-ditch barrier of bricks-and-mortar against … people like him. And yet, that’s exactly what happens in Hungry Ghost, a new play written by Lisa Sanaye Dring and directed by Jessica Hanna, now on at Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz. The play depicts the cozy life of an established gay couple — Dean (Jenny Soo) and Amanda (Tasha Ames) — as they embark on their new life in a home gifted from Dean’s recently departed mother … a mother/daughter relationship that was fraught.

This simple set up belies the ingenious 95-minute escapade in which Dean’s gnawing sense of the presence of a hungry ghost (an expression I have long been familiar with having long lived in Hong Kong) has been gnawing on the couple’s corn flakes in uninvited visitations. She sees him. And so do you, audience member. But, do others?

Hungry Ghost is part of a series dedicated to works by female playwrights and directors, “Her Vision, Her Voice,” the theme for Skylight’s 40th anniversary. Staged on an eerily lit California bungalow-style home (kudos to Yuri Okahana-Benson for excellent scenic design), this relatively staid environment is transformed by a vicissitudes of mood swings and the passage of time as the mostly happy couple counts down to the arrival of their new baby arriving.

In a pleasingly oblique way Ms. Dring assesses the choices and perils of loneliness and isolation in our society. It’s all being vivified before you, by these three credible characters. It’s a heavy load on the prop person, given the showering of dry cereal in the room, but also on the two leading ladies whose gobs of dialogue could benefit from crisper enunciation.

Ben Messner, a good-spirited actor enacting the nightcrawler with the right degree of creepy pathos, yes, has his passions. He loves Stevie Nicks, for one thing. And at the perfect moment of Ms. Dring’s carefully sculpted script he takes on a more corporal form to boogie beguilingly around the living room to a Fleetwood Mac song — a solo improvised dance that is so much fun and so nutty I nearly bust a gut watching it.

photocredit: Grettel Cortes

Hungry Ghost | Skylight Theater | though October 1

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