Homunculus Inc. – the Philadelphia-based theater company – is currently participating in the Philly Fringe Festival (a Knight Arts grantee) with its brand new translation and adaptation of August Strindberg’s classic chamber play “Ghost Sonata.” The haunting play will aptly take place at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA) through September 16.
This production of “Ghost Sonata” is directed by Zach Trebino with costumes by Angela Palaggi, sets by Kyle Stetz, sound by Austen Brown and a cast of nine local actors. The action takes place in a dilapidated world of broken dreams and double-crossing which subsequently leads to revenge and further existential decay. Following the trials of a young student, the viewers get pulled along into a convoluted drama full of betrayal and deceit.
After going out of his way to assist at the site of a house collapse, the student encounters a timid milkmaid who provides him with a drink before dashing off. In a daze, the young man then meets Jacob Hummel, a former associate of his father. The wheelchair-bound Hummel offers the boy a job so that he may gain access to a majestic old house he has admired for some time. Once inside, the student discovers there is a lot more to the deal than meets the eye.
In the home, the audience discovers vampires, ghosts, a colonel and a mummy trapped in a closet. Homunculus has arranged the play so that the cast and the patrons interact directly and they invite the theatergoers to explore the space; there is no stage in the traditional sense. With such an immersive environment, both the actors and the attendees are challenged by the complete absence of boundaries.
The set is full of gray bureaus, lopsided tables and deathly-looking plants, the slanted tables and wobbly chairs bringing to mind German expressionist films like the “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” These dismal surroundings and the morbid cast of characters come together to create a production that makes us all question our purpose in a world of drudgery. With talk of keeping the filth of life at a distance, self-reflection is inevitable. While the characters recall their deeds and misdeeds, the onlookers do as well.
Although the subject matter is powerful and dark, the play exists as a major text in the development of modernist theater, and is further updated by Homunculus to a performance which lacks a fourth wall almost entirely. Not a lighthearted tale by any means, the experience leaves a heavy introspection which lingers even after the action has ceased. The adaption of “Ghost Sonata” by Homunculus Inc. is as ghastly as it is engaging and offers a great sample of some of the things going on around the Fringe of Philadelphia theater.
Visit the Live Arts and Philly Fringe site for show times and advance tickets. The price of admission is $10, and doors open 30 minutes before show time.
PhilaMOCA is located at 531 N. 12th St., Philadelphia. Call the Live Arts and Philly Fringe at 215-413-1318; facebook.com/HomunculusInc.