FREED SPIRITS, a delightful paranormal new ghost story commissioned and produced by Horizon Theater, is perfect for this turbulent Halloween season. Artfully created by playwright Daryl Lisa Fazio and masterfully directed with exceptional special affects by Horizon's own Co-Producing Artistic Director Lisa Adler, FREED SPIRITS is an eclectic and hilarious mix of comedy, love and mystery. Based on our own historic Oakland Cemetery, the original play elevates local history and the occult into a ghostly mix of romance, intermingled past lives and intrigue with few roguish twists that keep us guessing right up to its unlikely denouement.
Other worldly Confederate roll calls and an intriguing love letter written pre battle long ago are the basis for this tantalizing play that keeps us fully engaged as layer upon layer are peeled back. Revolving around the lives of several motley and compelling characters striving to find a deeper meaning to their lackluster lives, these unlikely bedfellows find themselves by chance or destiny drawn to the depth and history of Atlanta's oldest secret sanctuary Oakland Cemetery founded in 1850.
The recently widowed, cemetery tour guide Susan Dickey gives a virtuosic comedic performance replete with blood curtling screams by Suehyla El-Attar. This overly apologetic mother figure in turn-of-the-century widow's garb with photographic memory hungers to be a guiding light to others. In turn, she enjoys the occasional forbidden ding dong, doughnut or nicotine rush to orgasmic release and may go into altered state, naming in alpha order everyone who is buried here, at a moment's notice.
The play opens as Susan leads the high school film student with an insatiable zest to dig dirt on Oakland's history Keisha (double cast as a ghost) through the cemetery grounds. In a humorous and nuanced performance by Jimmica Collins, Keisha mysteriously disappears when a tornado (hmm....fiction mirroring headlines?) opens its vortex of apparent paranormal activity.
After the tornado hits, Susan witnesses what seems to be a Confederate soldier named McKinley Etheridge (the dashing Spencer Kolbe Miller) looking for a slave named Mary (a dual role for Jimmica Collins) with whom he is romantically involved and has fathered a child. Susan struggles to process what she has witnessed with the help of amateur sleuth M.J. Bell who suddenly shows up. Bell played with conviction in a complex, layered and all out fabulous performance by the strikingly gorgeous Bryn Striepe is the uncannily psychic, homeless former Home Depot sales rep. As an archeologist hobbyist and deducting mentalist extraordinaire, the stunning Bell in other timey costumey attire is drawn to otherworldly realms and repelled by this one and its inhabitants.
She resists like the plague photographer Byron White played by the talented Jonathan Horne in an intelligent and geeky GK interpretation. Both he and Streipe take some dramatic falls worthy of a seasoned stunt double!
This photographer of the spirit world yearns for love and our comely detective. He also longs for a sense of belonging, as it turns out, does the entire rag tag group including forensic scientist and landscaper - another strong female role - that of Dr. Netta Finch. Played with precision and believability by Marguerite Hannah, Hannah delivers some pot shot one liners while projecting inner strength. She straddles both the scientific and spiritual worlds with equal ease as a retired expert in forensic science and cemetery volunteer who just happens to also have abilities as a spiritual medium.
All of these unlikely characters are pulled together by their mystical bond to this hidden place and Atlanta's little known treasure - the cemetary. Their fervent desire to solve the mystery and their increasing crescendo of frenzied intuitive awareness against the storm's wild progression propel them to discover their mutual bond as well as their connection to a higher realm of reality as the mystery makes its surprising and unlikely ghostly conclusion!
Don't miss this Halloween treat at Horizon! Coming up next for the holidays are its annual and well-loved Santaland Diaries by writer David Sedaris from Nov 18th through Jan 1st and Madeline's Christmas for the entire family, Decr 3rd to 31st. For tickets to these holiday treats and the paranormal adventure described above, call the Box Office: 404 584-7450 or visit www.horizontheatre.com. Horizon Theatre is located in the eye of Little Five Points at 1083 Austin Avenue NE Atlanta, GA 30307 with free parking.