With Idris Goodwin’s adaptation of newly appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynold’s award-winning book, “Ghost,” Metro Theater Company (MTC) serves high impact theater requiring a level of stamina rarely seen in a stage production.
David Blake’s well-crafted scenic design that resembles an outdoor track field will give them an idea of what’s in store, but the blurring of lines between sport and drama within this production must be seen to be fully grasped.
Thanks in part to director Jacqueline Thompson and choreographer Heather Beal, the cast meets the physical and emotional demands of the “Ghost” head on. “Ghost,” which opened Sunday and continues through March 1 at The Grandel Theatre, will give the audience a stunning appreciation for the synchronized athleticism and movement that literally races through a moment in the life of title character – inspired by a real life friend from Reynolds’ youth.
In middle school, when life is already critically complicated by hormones and self-discovery, the trauma of poverty and dysfunction have the potential to send Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw further towards the edge of the world.
Even his natural gift for running, which has the potential to stretch beyond an outlet into a full-fledged escape from his challenging dynamics, is rooted in a traumatic experience.
Ghost is inherently good, but disruptive. He is born and raised on the wrong side of the city and his peers refuse to let him forget it. He handles the conflicts that come his way as best he can – but makes poor decisions as a reaction of how the odds are stacked against him.
Even after finding a kindred spirit in his coach, Ghost is faced with difficult choices– and doesn’t always make the right ones – as he attempts to mesh with his teammates. But through the bond he develops with his coach, Ghost sees the bigger picture and develops a new sense of personal responsibility through a man willing to nurture and support him through the gaps in his life.
A co-commissioned play with Nashville Children’s Theatre that is part of an 18-month rolling world premiere, Metro Theater Company’s staging of “Ghost” adds context to the young black male experience without being exploitative. And the play simultaneously displays the power of mentorship, community and the profound impact the combination of the two can have on a young person struggling through their circumstances. There is care and intention given to showing how a life of crime often begins with young people who are victims of their circumstances.
The core of actors make it look easy as they push their bodies and emotions to the limits with the production – that still manages to be light enough for young audiences despite the heavy subject matter.
Jarris L. Williams as Ghost and Carl Overly Jr. as the coach showcase the powerful, and sometimes instant bond that grows out of sports participation. Lessons of camaraderie and discipline, that are naturally infused into other parts of young people’s lives when a mentor who cares as much about the individual as their athletic inclination steps in, is the recurring theme in “Ghost.”
Alicia Reve Like is compassionate and authentic as Ghost’s mother – who works during the day and studies all evening in the hopes of securing a better life for herself and her son by way of a nursing degree. Joe Hanrahan, Rae Davis, Jaz Tucker and Ernest Emmanuel Peoples create a well-meshed presence onstage as Ghost’s teammates and other roles as needed – each fully embodying the character they are charged with portraying at any given time.
Metro Theater Company’s production of “Ghost” continues through March 1 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. For more information, visit www.metroplays.org.