Ghostly comedy is frighteningly funny at Playcrafters


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Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013, 11:19 am
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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

The romantic comedy"Ghost of a Chance" is the funniest, most entertaining experience I've had atPlaycrafters Barn Theatre in a long time.

The clever six-character piece -- byDisney veterans Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus ("Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas" and "Lion King II: Simba's Pride," among others) -- not only is smartly and thoughtfully written, with relatable characters that change and grow, but the Playcrafters actors are just hilarious and fully committed to their roles. And the comfortable hunting lodge set -- with a stunning mountainous/forest backdrop out the window, suffused with shifting purple and blue light -- is drop-dead perfect.

In"Ghost," a contemporary comedy, Bethany (Cayte McClanathan) travels with her fiancé Floyd (Jordan Smith) and her future mother-in-law Verna (Jan Golz) to her cabin in the woods, the site of the hunting accident that killed her first husband, Chance (Joshua Kahn), three years ago.But Chance's ghost still is at the cabin and still in love with Bethany. Only Bethany can see him, so everyone thinks she's gone crazy, except for the kooky psychic she's hired to get rid of him.

Everyone but the timid dentist Floyd is a bit off their rockers, from which most of the play's hijinks and humor flow. Ms. Golz is a natural as the crabby, cynical Verna, who talks to the urn containing her late husband's ashes. She really has a heart of gold, but often is bewildered by the craziness swirling around her.

Ms. McClanathan is the sympathetic heroine, and her Bethany isexcitable, frantic and frazzled, as she's thrown for a loop by her second Chance. Confused and scared, Bethany just wants to unload him and the house, to start her new life with Floyd. Mr. Smith is a charming, affable leading man, an ordinary Joe rising to extraordinary circumstances, winning over his lady, and us in the audience.

Their life is turned upside down by this plaid-clad ghost, an irreverent, confident Chance, played by Mr. Kahn with gleeful, uninhibited physicality. His character often has a temper, but it looks like he's having a blast.

Undaunted by death,Chance says he feels great, but he doesn't feel anything. He can't pick up any object and for some reason, he calls his former wife Annie.

Bethanyhires Crystal, a wacky psychic delightfully played by Donna Weeks, and she can see him too. She thinks Chance is "caught between two worlds," and he may be afraid of death and the unknown (Who isn't?).

Chance gradually becomes more real; Bethany can feel him, they rekindle their old romance and kiss, and things get complicated fast, especially with a subplot involving Floyd and Crystal. Those two bond (Crystal wants him to fight for Bethany) and she falls for him. Chance loves living life on the edge and wants Bethany back.

"Chance" takes on double meanings, as Floyd gets drunk, develops a backbone, wants to take a risk, and win over his love.Bethany is torn between the two men, and there's a plot twist when we find out the relationship between thecabin's buyer (Al Whitmore) and Chance, and a fight over money ensues.Other dramatic secrets are revealed.

Not simply a madcap comedy (with thankfully very few slamming doors), "Ghost of a Chance" exposes the heart of true love, devotion, and how to truly seize the day and appreciate life. Mr. Kahn -- at his character's core selfish and immature -- is kind of an electrifying catalyst and teaching tool for the play's action.

Towards the end, everyone else can see Chance; there's emotional catharsis and an immensely satisfying conclusion. Director Patti Flaherty does a spectacular job of framing and timing the interplay among the cast, and congrats also go to set designer Sara Wegener, Ms. Weeks (as light designer) and their crew for this visual treat.

It's definitely a "Chance" worth taking.









If you go


-- What: "Ghost of a Chance."
-- When: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.
-- Where: Playcrafters Barn Theatre, 4950 35th Ave., Moline.
-- Tickets: $10, available at (309) 762-0330 or playcrafters.com.














 




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