Ghost of a Chance

The guy’s name is Chance, and now his ghost is haunting his old hunting cabin. Get it? “Ghost of a Chance”?!

That sort of cuteness belies the play’s true tone, which is far more serious than farcical. This is a comedy, but a weighty one, one with interesting character twists and ponderous ideas about life and death. And then it has a woman kissing a vacuum-cleaner bag.

It is a relatively new play, directed by JaceSon Parker Barrus and making its regional debut at the Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley. Its basic concepts are very old, though: I can think of four plays I’ve seen just at Hale theaters that have had people communicating from beyond the grave (“Forever Plaid,” “Lo and Behold,” “Blithe Spirit” and “Angels on the Loose”).

This time it’s Chance (Sila Agavale), who died three years ago in a hunting accident. His young wife, Bethany (Eden Benson), has arrived at the cabin, flanked by her fiance, Floyd (Danny Lasko), and his skeptical mother, Verna (Soni Barrus), to prepare it for sale. That’s when Chance pops up, visible and audible only to Bethany, to try to convince her not to marry Floyd but to stay with Chance in the cabin forever.

Thoroughly freaked out, Bethany brings in a psychic named Crystal (Melissa Porter) to exorcise the place. She doesn’t want to tell Floyd and especially Verna that she believes in mediums, though, so she lies about who Crystal is, thus opening the door for a misunderstanding about Crystal’s feelings toward Bethany. It is one of those misunderstandings that can exist only in farce, and it struggles to exist in this play, which is generally more earthbound than that.

The playwrights, Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus, have created a world that is difficult to portray. The characters are written to be three-dimensional and fleshy, but then they’re put into such an odd situation. The actors in this production seem to have varying attitudes on how to play it. Soni Barrus has opted for an over-the-top cartoon character as Floyd’s protective mother, while Danny Lasko and Eden Benson are pretty realistic as the central couple. Sila Agavale, as Chance, hits one level ‹ keyed-up ‹ and stays there for most of the play. Melissa Porter is somewhere between reality and farce as Crystal; the same goes for Jonathan Baty as potential cabin buyer Adam Lucas. A more consistent style among all the actors would have been preferable.

Despite its awkward mixing of tones, it is a well-written play, and the production does it some amount of justice. It never works itself into a true comedic lather, but it certainly has a smattering of fine moments.

Should you go? Sure, but don’t go expecting a zany, madcap farce, because that’s not what it is.