Jane Alexander Is Mrs. Alving in American-Set Ghosts, June 3-July 27 in DC

By Kenneth Jones
03 Jun 2003

Alexander Pascal as Oswald and Jane Alexander as his mother in Ghosts.
Alexander Pascal as Oswald and Jane Alexander as his mother in Ghosts.
Photo by Carol Rosegg

American stage star Jane Alexander plays Mrs. Alving in a new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts that re-sets the action in Maine in 1981, beginning June 3 at The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC.

Keeping it all in the family, which is so much of what the groundbreaking Ibsen play is about, this new version is penned and directed by Edwin Sherin, who is married to Alexander and who staged her classic turn in the landmark Arena Stage production of The Great White Hope, which went on to Broadway and greater fame.

The "stark examination of moral convention's sometimes painful price," Ghosts "explores the dilemma of Helen Alving, a woman trapped between society's expectations and her love for her son," according to Shakespeare Theatre.

Tony and Emmy award-winner Alexander makes her Shakespeare Theatre debut as Helen. Opening is June 9. Performances continue to July 27 at the DC resident theatre run by artistic director Michael Kahn.

Alexander shares the stage with Ted van Griethuysen as Franklin Manders and André De Shields as Jacob Strand.



"Compelled by her family’s circumstances, Helen Alving sends her young son away from home to be educated, enduring years of reprimand for her arms-length rearing of the boy," according to Shakespeare Theatre production notes. "When her beloved Oswald returns, indeed his father's son, Helen is forced to confront the legacy of outdated ideas she has spent her life protecting. Considered dangerous and shocking at its premiere in the late 19th-century, Ghosts examines the heartbreaking consequences of one woman's adherence to convention."

"When doing these works that are 100 years old, you cannot treat them as museum pieces," Sherin said in a statement. "Structurally, Ghosts is like a great concerto. But within Ibsen's brilliant structure, you have to find now where the timpani is used — where the horns are used ... you have to rethink the orchestrations. I have done a new adaptation because I care for this play and because I think this play can speak to a contemporary American audience."

Alexander won a Tony Award for The Great White Hope, and was Tony-nominated for Honour, The Sisters Rosenweig, The Visit, First Monday in October, Find Your Way Home and 6 Rms Riv Vu.

Alexander is the author of "Command Performance: An Actress in the Theater of Politics," documenting her tenure as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1993 to 1997.

André De Shields makes his Shakespeare Theatre debut as the carpenter Jacob Strand, the scheming father-figure to Gina Strand. De Shields is known for Broadway's The Wiz, Ain't Misbehavin' and The Full Monty.

Shakespeare Theatre company member Ted van Griethuysen returns to play Franklin Manders, Helen's business associate and once close friend. Van Griethuysen most recently appeared as Morose in The Shakespeare Theatre's production of Ben Jonson's The Silent Woman.

Alexander Pascal makes his Shakespeare Theatre debut as Oswald Alving, Helen’s beloved son. Pascal's regional theatre credits include Fallen at the Merrimack Repertory Theater.

Noel True makes her Shakespeare Theatre debut as Gina Strand, Helen's headstrong maid. Off-Broadway, True has performed in St. Lucy’s Eyes, Whoa-Jack!, Snapshots 2000 and The Three Sisters.

Designers are Walt Spangler (scenic), Tyler Micoleau (lighting), Jane Greenwood (costume) and Martin Desjardins (sound). Composer Steve Heitzeg wrote "haunting and languorous" original music for the staging.

Tickets range $15-$65. The Shakespeare Theatre is at 450 7th St. NW, between D and E streets, just off Pennsylvania Avenue, between the Capitol and the White House. For information, call (202) 547-1122 or visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.

Ghosts closes The Shakespeare Theatre's 2002-03 season.