Monday, January 25, 2010

Whisper House

In all fairness, it must be said that I came into this show unable to stop myself from comparing it to Duncan Sheik's Tony Award-winning smash, Spring Awakening. The die-hard fans of that show may be up in arms against me, but I think that the Old Globe's premier of Sheik's Whisper House was a remarkably better play.

Granted, the two could not be more different (although apparently microphones are a requirement). Spring Awakening was astounding for its power ensemble vocals and visuals. Whisper House is not a musical in that sense; it is more of a play that is interrupted and narrated by two singing ghosts (the only two characters that sing through the entire show) that are haunting a young boy forced to live with his spinster Aunt Lilly in the family lighthouse after his father is killed in World War II.

My biggest disappointment in Spring Awakening was that the beautiful music had no story to accomplish or was lyrically completely irrelevant to the plot. Whisper House has a very tangible story as Aunt Lilly, played brilliantly by Mare Winningham (who was also wonderful in the La Jolla Playhouse's Bonnie and Clyde earlier this year- my apologies for missing the post) must deal with a bratty young nephew as well as the racial tension of WWII against her Japanese worker and love interest.

The ghosts, played by David Poe and Holly Brook, carried off Duncan's pop style flawlessly while clearly enjoying their fiendish antics on stage wandering through the play's action. Their chemistry and harmonies reminded me of the Irish duo The Swell Season. The costumes and set added wonderfully to the eeriness of the piece, although the projections seemed, at times, a bit unnecessary. Visually and vocally, this show is easily the best thing I have seen at the Globe. And you know how I feel about The Grinch...