Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The play's the thing in 'Ghostlight'

Modest but emotionally grounded, Ghostlight tells a story about an ordinary family coping (or not) with grief. Directors Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson slowly reveal the nature of the loss suffered by a suburban Chicago family in which Dad (Keith Kupferer) works construction, Mom (Tara Mallen) tries to hold the family together, and daughter Daisy (Katherine Kupferer) indulges in ample doses of teenage fury. Bordering on the trite and flirting with cliche, Ghostlight emerges as a good-hearted exploration of how an improbable foray into community theater unites a family. Kupferer’s Dan learns about a local theater group when group member Rita (Dolly De Leon) approaches him. After seeing Dan struggle with his temper, Rita invites Dan to visit the group’s rehearsal space. Perhaps sensing a route into emotions he’s been unable to express, Dan joins the group. He winds up playing the part of Romeo to Rita’s Juliet. The company consists mostly of older people who agree to bypass issues of age in their staging of Shakespeare's play. A back story about the death of Dan and Tara's son runs a parallel course to the play. The connection feels a bit forced, but the movie makes a touching case for art as a means of exploring parts of ourselves that otherwise might prove inaccessible. And, no, Dan doesn't become a new Olivier. Gradually, Kupferer shows how Shakespeare's language begins to speak directly to Dan. For the record: A ghost light is the only light that’s left on when a stage is otherwise dark and a theater is empty. Also, the roles of father, daughter, and mother are played by a real family. Keith Kupferer and Tara Mallen are the real-life parents of Katherine Kupferer. 

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