By Ethereal Reyes, Nov. 8, 2022

Can grappling with selfhood, marriage, motherhood, gentrification, unrequited love, paranormal activity and the debate of the existence of ghosts be tied into a snappy and digestible story? The answer is yes, a modern ghost story, like “2:22 A Ghost Story,” can do this. 

Making its U.S. premiere, “2:22 A Ghost Story,” written by Danny Robins, premiered Oct. 29 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, far from its origins in the West End of London. Serving an undeniably incandescent performance, the audience was left in awe. 

The Center Theatre Group production, directed by Matthew Dunster, follows Jenny, played by Constance Wu, through a night of struggle to prove to her disbelieving husband Sam, played by Finn Wittrock, that a ghost has been haunting her while he has been away. Jenny convinces their longtime friend Lauren, played by Anna Camp, and her new boyfriend Ben, played by Adam Rothenberg, to stay until 2:22 a.m., the time the ghost has been striking the past few nights. 

From the realistic design by Anna Fleischle that transports the interior of a home onto the stage, to the outstanding performances by the cast, the play impressively addresses the question of whether ghosts exist or not, a query that is regularly pondered by the human race. The approach the play takes in answering this question is strangely unique as a hauntingly real tale about human life emerges in the subtext of the story’s paranormal mask. 

Whether a skeptic or a believer, the show inspirits the audience into reflecting if they are living life the way they mean to. It’s rare that a story effectively compels its audience to take a deeper look at themselves without being preachy, but “2:22 A Ghost Story” does so effortlessly. 

A single setting play sounds like a recipe for theater boredom, but the natural flowing dialogue and well thought out characters keep the audience engaged as the bright red digital clock progresses closer to 2:22 a.m. Even the occasional comedic relief lands. Like who would’ve thought Amazon’s Alexa would make it into a ghost story? 

The heart of the story falls within the chemistry of the ensemble. There were multiple occasions where moods or specific dynamics between characters were felt before the dialogue explicitly explained them. The estranged, once passionate, love between Sam and Jenny addresses the struggles of adulthood from parenting to moving into a new house.

Sam had lost his phone leading him and Jenny not to be in contact for the days he was on his trip but when he returns, she tells him that at 2:22 a.m. every night, she has been hearing footsteps from their daughters’ room, like walking around her crib. 

Ethereal Reyes | The Poly Post

Her bull-headed science loving husband dismisses the idea of a ghost which leaves Jenny in a state of betrayal as she reminisces on the early days of their relationship. He tells her that it is impossible for things to appear and disappear and that there must be a logical explanation for what she heard. She recalls always feeling like a “sponge” in their relationship, that she would simply soak up the information Sam told her on the topics of art, history and science and that in the process, she lost her sense of self. 

Throughout the night, Jenny’s character confronts the idea of selfhood as her husband refuses to believe in the potential existence of ghosts. 

The ghost drives the character development of the entire ensemble throughout the play.

From their first interaction, we can sense that Sam and Ben clash. Two very different men from different worlds and different levels of privilege. 

It’s revealed that when Jenny and Sam moved in, they purged knick knacks and furniture items that the previous owners, an older couple, had handcrafted and left around the house. Ben describes selling his mother’s home to a couple like Sam and Jenny. He describes both pairs like “vampires” who enter a place and boast about how they will suck the life out of it. “You people,” he goes.

He addresses their sense of entitlement, how they all think they’re so unique and how ironically, all of their houses tend to look the same. He says the root of what they are trying to do, even if it’s subconscious, is to wash away any signs of “people like him” having lived there before. 

This idea of gentrification through homemaking is connected to the theme of ghosts when the conversation deviates to an understanding of why ghosts must be so angry. They are angry because they were made irrelevant in a place that used to belong to them. 

Perhaps the play is encouraging the audience to be more gentle in how they approach things, or to be open-minded but remain alert. 

The resolution of the 2:22 a.m. mystery finishes off the story, causing the audience to attempt to play back all of the scenes they just witnessed in detail. 

Although simple with a small cast and a single location, the subtext of the paranormal thriller “2:22 A Ghost Story” was hauntingly unforgettable and deeply human. 

 2:22 A Ghost Story 

Where: Ahmanson Theatre

When: October 29-December 4, 2022 

Tickets: Currently $40-$160 

Feature image courtesy of Ethereal Reyes

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