"2:22-A Ghost Story," show #850
A quartet of terrific actors have entered the horror genre of theatre with Danny Robins’ 2:22-A Ghost Story. The play surrounds two couples as they stay in Jenny’s house and, drunkenly, parade their way to 2:22 A.M. in hopes of confirming that a ghost is haunting Jenny and her husband Sam’s house. Constance Wu (Jenny), Finn Wittrock (Sam), Anna Camp (Lauren), and Adam Rothenberg (Ben) did their absolute best to make Robins’ script work but, with a few haunting missteps, the otherwise compelling script leaves audiences counting the minutes until the play’s end.
The script wants so badly to be Horror that it loses focus on its four characters, arguably the aspect with the most intriguing potential. Robins does the job in ensuring the mysteries are mostly tied up at the end, allowing for a near-complete story to be presented. However, Anna Fleischle’s giant house set design, representing Bostonian gentrification, was far too big a space for any of the required intimacy needed for the audience to feel part of the thrill. Instead, the jump scares ignited by Ian Dickinson’s sound design of at-times ominous and at-times ear-piercing screeches compromised most of the suspension of disbelief.
The size of the venue, both Ahmanson Theater and the set, certainly served the purpose of housing the Hollywood name-draw rather than the script’s requirements. Wu led the charge terrifically, balancing the desperate need to convince the other three of the ghost’s existence while also imbuing the stresses and pleasures of being a new mom. Wittrock gave as much as he got as the loud-mouthed husband to Wu’s Jenny, and delivered some noticeable nuance to Sam’s several layers of fatherhood, ex to Lauren, and someone is who the most non-believing of ghosts among the four. Camp was a delightful Lauren, having the most drunken stupor of the four, some obvious secrets which Lauren, Sam, and Ben dive into later in the play, and delivered a fun take on an otherwise surface-written role. Rothenberg made every ounce of Ben interesting from the jump, being the role I found to be the most alluring, but also the one who has the least to do. Matthew Dunster’s direction was strong and clipped the play along, left as little dead space as possible, but also gave glaring exposure to the fact that Robins’ script lacks the amount of profundity it thinks it has, with specific lack of depth given to its attempted commentary on how life throws changes at you whether you want them or not, experiencing unrequited love, and wanting vs. having children.
The ghost story has concluded its run, but not for lack of having its continued trek through spaces and casts who gave its due time on the boards. With any future iterations, the foundation is there to make for an entertaining four-hander; but horror is, historically, a difficult genre to effectively knock out of the park in a live theatre context. My hat tips to Dunster and company for bringing to stage what they could and to those who love the horror genre, perhaps find your way to the next production and see for yourself if the twists and jump scares do the trick for you!