A fascinating experience awaits you, emerging from Blue Barn Theatre. This special creation arrives full of imagination in a type of production to which you may not be accustomed. You chose where and when to watch those actions which may unfold around you.
In Walk the Night, you enter a turreted mansion-like Victorian-style building a stone’s throw of the shadows in historic Walnut Hill. Almost a castle, you might conclude. Darkness of evening comes. You squeeze into a tiny waiting room, as if expecting a nurse to call you inside to have you interior probed. The walls have paintings. You have no idea why they are there or to what they refer. You are guided into a small, sparsely furnished drawing room where you are given hints about what awaits you inside that structure. Soon it will feel as if every corner, every angle is explored with maximum invention. Levels of excellence abound in these spaces.
While having waited, you may have read what purports to be a page from Yoknapatawpha County Herald, showing photos of eight murdered people. Should your education have thrust you into the complex verbosity of Mississippi’s William Faulkner, you might recognize the name of the fictional setting for many of his novels. And you can quickly come to realize that what will unfold in that state’s actual community of Denmark bears a close resemblance to Elsinore of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Adding to the cleverness, read that Hamlet Dane Jr. returned from studies at Oxford, England; Faulkner lived most of his life in Oxford, Miss.
Thus it is that producer, writer, director Spencer Williams and co-creators/choreographers Sebastiani Romagnolo and Wai Yim have transformed the classic play into an extraordinary new one, a ghost story. Halloween, do you see? The uncommon invention unfolds in multiplicity, while, you, a witness, follow the characters or stumble upon them as they re-live their tragedies amid the many rooms, along the wooden corridors and winding, warren-like stairs, howling with anger, venting their rage, rarely able to pause for reflection.
Remember, if you will, that such eight pictured people are killed in Shakespeare’s tale of complex revenge. You encounter them all. Slightly southern- accented versions of Hamlet, Ophelia, her brother Laertes, their father Polonius, Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, his uncle/her husband Claudius and the foolish Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Need you be thoroughly familiar with the source? I think not. But, if you’re wondering about the ghost of Hamlet’s father, be it known, he does not materialize. Enough other dead haunt the confines.
Scenes and speeches from the original version permeate the spaces, supplemented by a few new verbal inventions. Characters rush by you, pause, rant and move on. Or they sway in supple choreography. Sometimes they grapple with each other in dangerous force. They do not seem to know that they are observed by visitors from the outside.
You are not called upon to participate. You can move to any part of the interior you chose. Walk carefully. Steep steps. Dim lights in some places. Do not fear. The spirits know the way. You will not collide.
This remarkable exploration comes expertly staged in every nook and cranny, every shadow and every open space, thanks to co-directors/choreographers Williams. Romagnolo and Yim. The 14-member cast talks and walks with skills which glow in the dark. How could you not be impressed?
Alas, poor cast. You know it not. No program notes await you. Sure, you might glance at photos at the entrance and see names underneath them, without learning what roles they play. And you are not alerted to that information upon entering. Williams says he wants to bury theatrical conventions. To provoke you to think that this is all some kind of horrible reality. To believe in tortured souls.
Should you go to the website, you can learn more. It’s www.WalkTheNightWithMe.com. Only 12 of the 14 performers are identified. None as the characters they play. Williams hopes that you’ll think of them as an ensemble, not as individuals. Indulge him.
The play’s the thing wherein to catch the essence of what it brings.
Walk the Night continues through November 1 at 3837 Cuming Street, Omaha. Weds-Sat: 7 & 8:30 pm. Tickets: $20-$25. www.walkthenightwithme.com/the-show/