Ghosting Review: Secrets and Surprises of an Irish Woman Returning from Exile

In “Ghosting,” Síle is a young woman from Waterford, Ireland who has exiled herself to the anonymity of London after her boyfriend Mark — “first person I kissed, I slept with, I needed” – abruptly disappeared from her life. Suddenly, six years later, Mark appears at the foot of Síle’s bed, smiling enigmatically. Two days after that, Síle’s sister Aisling texts her: Mark died two days ago.

“Ghosting,” the latest of Irish Rep’s stellar series of streaming “performances on screen,” is co-written and performed by Anne O’Riordan, who grew up in County Waterford; it was filmed from the stage of the Royal Waterford Theater and takes place largely in the city of Waterford, an Irish city that is probably most famous as the birthplace of Waterford Crystal. While the play is far from crystal clear,  it is multifaceted, with a kind of refracted brilliance – which is to say, it can be viewed from different angles. 

It is something of a ghost story, and a mystery and a melodrama, but also an astute look at modern Irish life – which on the surface is full of texting and Tinder and youthful slang terms like “ghosting” (“the practice of ending a personal relationship with somebody by suddenly, and without explanation, withdrawing from all communication.”) But “ghost” has not lost its traditional meaning (as Dermot Quinn’s dark lighting helps us see), and modern Irish life has not escaped from traditional Irish views and values, which, as the play drives home, weigh heavily on  young people like Sí. When she spontaneously decides to return to her hometown for Mark’s funeral, she feels stared at, and judged, as soon as she arrives back in Ireland. 

Although only an hour long, “Ghosting” is full of incident, some funny, some sad; of locations: her London office, a pub, the funeral, a dance club (efficiently rendered through winning projections designed by Jamie Beamish, who is also the co-writer, director, sound designer and composer); of adroitly-drawn characters, such as her well-meaning if nebbishy co-worker, an old classmate who is now a conventional mother of a bawling infant, an intern at the funeral, and Mark’s mother, who whispers in her ear, mysteriously, “I don’t blame you.” It is also full of surprises;  secrets revealed. We learn, for example, the reasons why Sí left.  Some of the revelations are touching; some are neither believable nor even coherent. But both O’Riordan’s performance and her writing ground “Ghosting” in a moment-to-moment reality that gives us what Sí herself seeks – some relief,  some release,and some grace.

Irish Repertory Theatre
Thrown Shapes and Theatre Royal Waterford
Streaming through July 4, 2021
Written by Jamie Beamish and Anne O’Riordan
Performed by Anne O’Riordan
With Andrew Macklin
Directed for Streaming; Music and Sound by Jamie Beamis
Original stage director Aidan Kelly
Lighting design by Dermot Quinn
Live Video Editing by Sean O’Sullivan
Running time: One hour

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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