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Springs Ensemble Theatre presents Afterlife, an unconventional and ambitious ghost story 

click to enlarge DAVID SHAVER
  • David Shaver
When we think of ghost stories, particularly this time of year, something “spooky” comes to mind, stories of haunted mansions or vengeful specters, but Springs Ensemble Theatre’s October production presents a different kind of ghost story, one that asks the question: What haunts you?

Afterlife, a play by Steve Yockey, follows a couple preparing their beach house for a massive tropical storm (a rather timely topic). But they haven’t been to this beach house since they lost their 3-year-old child to the sea, and they have to sift through memories — good and bad — as they lock down the home. But the storm arrives sooner than expected, and the two find themselves in what may be an afterlife of their own.

“This is melancholy-beautiful,” director Sarah Shaver says of the play’s tone. “It’s sublime.” And though it doesn’t deal with religion necessarily, she says it does address the universal search for answers to life’s questions, including questions about the afterlife itself, if there is one.

“There are a lot of mothers at SET,” Shaver, a mother herself, says, “and that’s a true nightmare that we all have, losing a child.” But rather than avoiding that nightmare, she and the SET team, who often tackle intense or uncomfortable topics, wanted to explore it. “[W]e think of the thing that’s the most horrible, frightening, or complicated, and we look it in the face and we say, ‘let’s talk about it.’”

With a cast that includes such local favorites as Jenny Maloney, Max Ferguson and Lynne Hastings, plus an incredibly creative production team, Afterlife should prove to be as beautiful in presentation as it is in concept.

Shaver says with obvious excitement: “Fitting a story that grand into a space our size is always a wonderful challenge. It’s not easy, it’s like a little Tetris game.” But the production team has made it work — and made it work well, according to Shaver — with a set that immerses the audience in the sand and ocean surrounding the home.

Even though it’s a tough topic, presenting a special challenge to those who have lost a child, Shaver says “it has enough beauty that it might be worth the challenge.”

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