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The Ghost in the Meadow hauntingly good entertainment

By: Veronica Burniston
Freelance Writer

On November 15th, at Heritage Hall, “confronting your demons” never felt as real as the Barter Theatre presented the spooky yet highly entertaining play The Ghost in the Meadow written by Joe Simonelli.
The Ghost in the Meadow follows two sisters, Sheila and Kylie Roberts, who move from the bustling streets of New York City to a rural country “relic of a house.” Three hours away from their previous lives, Sheila hopes to focus on her career as a painter while Kylie tries to understand Sheila’s fascination with the rundown house. Despite the house’s decrepit condition, Sheila finds inspiration within the peeling wallpapered walls of the third floor guest room. But when her boyfriend, Julian Shaw, visits for the weekend, despite Sheila’s desired separation, and strange occurrences start happening in her favorite room, poor Sheila finds herself over her head in spooks, apparitions, and complicated relationships. With the spirit of the “forsaken boy” appearing in the meadow outback and apparitions lingering outside Sheila’s third story window, not to mention strange noises coming from the locked attic, how is an artist supposed to work? Then, at Julian’s request, arrives Antoinette Owens, psychic extraordinaire, to help them get to the bottom of this country haunting and, hopefully, make it through the weekend.
As expected from Barter Theatre, the performance had the audience ensnared in the mystery of the pre-civil war house within minutes. Starting with a comedic bickering between the sisters during a power outage, a sighting of a child apparition in the middle of a thunderstorm, and then followed by hilarious squabbles that begin after Julian’s arrival, The Ghost in the Meadow delivers a very true representation of human relationships, familial and romantic, as well as a pinch of the supernatural, potent enough to keep the audience on their toes. This brew of comedy, love, and horror propelled the viewers into a story that encompassed the known with the unknown and the familiar safety of a rural setting with the dangers of malicious spirits. Ironically, these very qualities give the performance a similar feel to what the character Kylie Roberts points out, rather sarcastically, within the play: “country living, never a dull moment.”
The single set was an intricate design of the old and the new, combining peeling wallpaper and an old trunk with an artist palette, lamps, a red sitting chair, and paints. Props such as cell phones and flashlights also gave the neglected set a little touch of the modern. Throughout the play, the most startling moments all centered around the elongated window that overlooked the meadow and an abandoned church, and the inexplicably locked attic door that opened only at the apparition’s will. With a creative use of the set’s limited space, the onstage cast successfully delivered both comedic scenes and seat-gripping surprises, some producing bundles of laughter, others the startled screams of the unsuspecting.
Young and old audience members warmed the seats of Heritage Hall during Friday’s performance. And although everyone came from different backgrounds and from various lifestyles, the whole theater agreed on the outcome of Barter’s performance. Thanking the performers for their hard work with a standing applause, Mountain City natives expressed their gratitude for a job well done and a haunting that would bristle their neck hairs on dark, stormy nights for days to come.
Barter’s success with The Ghost in the Meadow wasn’t the only treat of the evening. Besides the excellent performance, two Heritage Hall mugs were presented to individuals with the ever-superstitious number “13” at the end of their social. On top of it all, Richard Rose, the Producer Artistic Directer/Director of The Ghost in the Meadow and numerous other Barter plays, announced that Mrs. Evelyn Cook was added to the Barter Theatre Board of Trustees.
Although Barter’s The Ghost in the Meadow will not be playing again at Heritage Hall or Barter Theatre this season, the Johnson County Community Theatre will be celebrating the Christmas spirit by presenting James Rodger’s two act adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life on December 6th and 7th at 7 p.m. and December 8th at 2:30 p.m. So be sure to mark the calendar and swing by Heritage for a local performance of the well-beloved Christmas story that has enchanted viewers for over five decades.
For more information on upcoming events this December, contact the Heritage Hall Box office at 727-7444 or visit the website at www.heritagehalltheatre.org. For more information on Barter Theatre events and upcoming plays, call (276) 628-3991 or check Barter’s website at www.bartertheatre.com.