The Ghost Is Here at Vitalist Theatre | Theater review
A con man plays on Japan’s postwar grief in Kobo Abe’s 1958 satire.
“Now that you are dead, you are much in demand,” sing four women carrying a dead body through a destitute Japanese village. With the help of a soldier who can speak to ghosts, con man Oba (Jamie Vann) has turned photographs of the dead into valuable assets, swindling the people of Kitahama by preying on their grief and loss.
Set in a Japan struggling to rebuild after the devastation caused by the atomic bomb, Kobo Abe’s 1958 satire uses Oba’s hoax to comment on the ways corporations and politicians exploit the dead for profit and publicity. By appealing to the community’s debt to its deceased, Oba’s expanded wealth becomes political clout. There’s a strong Brechtian influence on The Ghost Is Here, with a sizable cast, socially conscious story and musical interludes, and director Jaclynn Jutting has difficulty balancing all the elements. The group sequences suffer from muddled diction and cartoonish characterizations, but a solid principal cast keeps the production cohesive and engaging.
Edgar Miguel Sanchez is a capable dramatic anchor as Fukagawa, Oba’s accomplice tortured by his wartime experience, and his relationship with Oba’s daughter, Misako (a pleasantly tough Mildred Marie Langford), is the play’s main source of emotional heft. The despicable Oba benefits from Vann’s charming temperament and terrific chemistry with his wife, Toshie, played by a hilariously shrewish Yadira Correa.