Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Séance spices ‘The Ghost Elizabeth’ in Plymouth

Critic At Large

Plymouth Arts Center Theatre Company

Basic setup for “The Ghost Elizabeth” of Plymouth Arts Center Theatre Company. (Warren Gerds)

PLYMOUTH, Wis. (WFRV) – Believe in ’em or not, there’s something to say for the séance in the play “The Ghost Elizabeth.” It’s quite catchy.

The medium goes through all sorts of chanting and vocal gobbledygook and manages to call up spirits from the vapors.

When a spirit speaks, her or his voice emanates from the mouth of one of the séance-es around a table, with an echo in the voice.

Oops, the medium gets one name wrong out of a telephone book and connects with an errant spirit. It’s a séance version of a wrong number.

The medium has arrived with a metallic toolbox and a toilet plunger. He never uses his tools of his trade, but little matter because they are interesting props.

The séance sequence takes place well into the play by local writer Kerrylynn Kraemer, who also directs in a presentation by Plymouth Arts Center Theatre Company.

The play has a subtitle: “A Comedy Drama.”

The drama part is the setup, which is most unusual. Kerrylynn Kraemer created an intricate web of circumstances that, to describe, are laced with spoilers for the story. Without giving too much away: Elizabeth of the title is first seen during World War II. She is looking forward to her wedding until she learns two bits of bad news. Soon after, the time shifts to the present, and Elizabeth is a friendly ghost in the house she grew up in, until by happenstance three girls show up because their car broke down. The sight of one girl brings out the wicked in Elizabeth.

The comedy comes in the byplay between the girls about being stuck for the night in a strange house that becomes stranger still when Elizabeth (Nora Jaeger) starts picking on Julia (Toddianna Kraemer-Curtiss) and scaring her along with Dana (Kimberly Kraemer), Kelly (Michellelena Kraemer) and kindly homeowner Lillian (Sue Kaiser).

Eventually, Elizabeth becomes so disruptive it’s time for Lillian to call a ghostbuster – er, medium – and in comes Jake (Christopher Fontaine, who gets bonus points for over-the-topness) to set the wheel of comedy in motion, though always with bumps of drama along the way.

Program cover.

The story’s originality holds attention – plus, only in Plymouth can this imaginative play be seen. Firing up the curiosity are the director’s notes of Kerrylynn Kraemer. This play’s saga started in 2005 as a kind of act of desperation to put on a school play with no budget. Tweaks came for productions in 2007, 2010 and the current one.

The play kind of fits Halloween weekend, but there’s more to it than spookiness. It is funny, sad and touching.

Performances in Plymouth Arts Center tend to be “wide-screen.” This production includes a flower garden to the audience’s left and home interior with complete décor – and then some in Lillian’s collection of photos and curiosities – in a living room and dining room.

The cast is lively. The material assures that – so different, adventurous and, ahem, spirited during the séance sequence.

***

Creative: Playwright – Kerrylynn Kraemer; director – Kerrylynn Kraemer; tech director – Bill Johnston; lights and sound – Bill Johnston, Dean Jaeger, Kristopher Kraemer; stage – Dick Fellenz, Bill Johnston, Kerrylynn Kraemer, Kimberly Kraemer, Michellelena Kraemer, Toddianna Kraemer-Curtis; props – Bonnie Jaeger, Rebecca Menne, Kerrylynn Kraemer, Michellelena Kraemer, Jean Jaeger, Quinn Kraemer, Toddianna Kraemer-Curtis

Cast

Elizabeth – Nora Jaeger

Woman #1 – Kerrylynn Kraemer

Woman #2 – Bonnie Jaeger

Mother – Rebecca Menne

Lillian – Sue Kaiser

Julia – Toddianna Kraemer-Curtis

Dana – Kimberly Kraemer

Kelly – Michellelena Kraemer

Jake the Medium – Christopher Fontaine

Jack – Kieran Kraemer

Russian Ghost – Bob Deyo

Running time: One hour, 42 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 and 2 p.m. Oct. 31

Note: Seating socially distanced for COVID-19 reasons; advance ticket sales only

Info: plymoutharts.org

***

THE VENUE: Plymouth Arts Center is located at 520 E. Mill St. in downtown Plymouth. The building began life as H&W Motor Sales, probably in the 1920s, then became the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce and then became the multi-use arts center. The theater space is approximately 70 by 50 feet, with the floor flat and carpeted. Lighting and sound elements are hung on sturdy structures in an open ceiling above the first level, through which can be seen a wood ceiling of a second level. Walls are painted cream. Remnants of the auto dealership include ornate arches for an apparent showroom and what appears to be a small balcony. Entering the building, patrons see a beverage area to the right, a gift store to the left with an art gallery in a large space adjacent. Concerts, plays and special events are presented in the theater space. In all, it’s a clever conversion of a building.

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