THEATER REVIEW | Nimbus Theatre translates August Strindberg’s “Ghost Sonata”

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nimbus theatre, located in NE Minneapolis, is currently featuring a fantastically surreal Ghost Sonata by August Strindberg. Rarely translated to English, well, probably any language these days, it’s a rare chance to see an undersold classic.

Per nimbus’s website: “Strindberg unflinchingly squires us through a strange maze of desire and disillusionment, drawing us inexorably deeper into a world of bright shadows and dark truths … [this performance] illuminates Strindberg’s seminal work of modernist drama.

That’s why I wanted to go see it: modernist, drama, Strindberg. The translation by Danielle Blackbird rarely disappoints. There are some conversational nuances that don’t translate well, but the actors are superb and masterful in their delivery including Bergman-like silences and dramatic pauses. Unlike some other reviewers, I’m not a fan of the accompanying video/tech backdrops which, in my opinion, stifled one’s imagination a bit by being obvious visual translations of the characters’ spirits. However, director Zach Morgan does an excellent job guiding the no-intermission, 90-minute performance, through dramatic highs and even more dramatic lows (ah, the d r a m a!). I don’t want to write a spoiler, but get ready to, literally, be blown away. Also, you’ll most likely want to laugh loudly or sigh notably at some of the subtle gestures created by the more silent characters like Fiance (Jean Shore) and the Girl Scout (Nissa Nordland).

The accompanying musicians, Ethan Bjelland on Cello, Emily Powell/Mary Beth Huttlin on Clarinet and Pianist, Franco Holder/Jaclyn Schwartz, and their score provide a lovely, hauntingly poignant soundtrack.

The main characters, Old Man (Charles Numrich) and Student (Andrew Sass), are strong performers and completely believable in their roles. No awkward exchanges were apparent to me, which can sometimes happen when dialogue is plentiful and goes off on a rant. The Daughter (Megan Dowd) wears her surreal face well, and uses terrific body language to communicate her grief and frustration. My favorite characters were the Maid/Mummy/Mommy (Karen Bix) who does an awesome parrot (!), and the Cook (Cate Jackson). Oh that Cook! Just when you think you’re wrapped in high-drama conversation, in walks the Cook in her surreal costuming with her soy sauce. Fantastically clever.

I was impressed during this first-time-experience at nimbus. The space is cool and you’re greeted by warm people. Located at the edge of Central Avenue’s current BNSF rr bridge construction zone, approach from the North, and use 18th and Central/just “across the street from Diamond’s Coffee Shop” as your guide. Parking is free and plentiful. You can grab refreshments before you go in to the performance, and also take a minute to note the interesting lobby area complete with a striking spiral staircase (to heaven?). It’s a gem of a neighborhood theater. And this is a not-to-be-missed performance!