Hungry Ghost Becomes the Latest Inhabitant of Skylight Theatre

Soo, Messmer. Photo courtesy Skylight Theatre.

Bringing the Skylight’s series featuring women playwrights and directors to a close, Lisa Sanaye Dring’s Hungry Ghost may be the most densely packed, metaphorical drama presented this year.

Dring tells the tale of two women who are lovers. After inheriting her mother’s isolated cabin in the woods, Dean (Jenny Soo) and Amanda (Tasha Ames) decide to move there to await the birth of their child.  Soon, however, strange things begin to happen in the night.  The couple wakens only to discover some of their supplies strewn around the kitchen, and Dean learns of a hermit living out in the woods who appears to be making midnight forays into their home.  However, as her baby grows within her, she develops a “baby brain,” conflating the hermit with her incubating child. Showing progressively infantile behavior, the “Hermit” (Ben Messmer) sends Dean on a journey of self-questioning, as long-suffering Amanda continues to try to be supportive.

It is no easy feat to bring the interiority of the mind to the stage. As directed by Jessica Hanna and aided by Mylette Nora’s contemporary costuming, the three inhabitants of Hungry Ghost keep their performances rooted in the present, while navigating magic reality, leaving audiences to sort out the layers of meaning that the play portends.  The realism is aided by the kitchen-sink details of Yuri Okahana-Benson’s set, while Brandon Baruch’s lighting and Nick Santiago’s projections let levels of time and space wash over it to suit shifting moments, juxtaposed with Joseph’s “Sloe” Slowinsky’s ominous sound design.

Sadly, the play’s scenes shift in time much as a screenplay, causing set changes to be performed in clear view, thus disrupting the ambiance that the performance is trying to achieve.  Be that as it may, the Skylight Theatre’s approach to Lisa Dring’s meditation on the mind allows layers of meaning to unfold hours, even days after its performance. It is well worth the effort for Skylight to showcase the women writers they have presented, giving them this opportunity to see their work in action.

Hungry Ghost continues Saturdays at 8:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm  and Mondays at 7:30 through October 1st at The Skylight Theatre, 18161/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles 90027. Tickets range from $20 (Students) and $33 (Seniors) to $38.  Reservations: (213) 761-7061or online