‘Ghost Island Light’ Comedic thriller hit with local audiences

Jeffrey Wetsch as Brandon, Perrie Olthuis as Erin, David Rosser as Josiah and Heidi Lynch as Rowena in Lighthouse Theatre’s production of “The Ghost Island Light.”

Jeffrey Wetsch as Brandon, Perrie Olthuis as Erin, David Rosser as Josiah and Heidi Lynch as Rowena in Lighthouse Theatre’s production of “The Ghost Island Light.”

Review by Donna McMillan

For all those who love Port Dover’s iconic lighthouse, its moaning fog horn, guiding light and the sound of wild waves crashing against the pier with furious splashes of spray, world renowned Canadian playwright Peter Colley has penned a wonderful new comedic thriller.
This play gives the audience tense, sitting-on-the-edge -of-your-seat moments, interspersed with funny comedic flashes in a story that keeps audiences entertained from its opening lines to the end.
And while the lighthouse in “Ghost Island Light” is stuck on a barren rock island with cramped quarters for a keeper, his wife and an assistant, the visuals are ever present of light streaming into the circa 1910 set, the eerie sounds of wind and water thrashing outside thin wooden walls, fog drifting in and out, and loud resonating sounds as equipment is mastered to ensure the running of the light. And yes, there are spirits — of every kind — while seagulls scream outside.
“Ghost Island Light” was premiered at Lighthouse Festival Theatre last week and is sure to be added to Peter Colley’s repertoire of award winning plays that have been performed throughout the world.
The story sees Josiah (David Rosser) arriving at his newest Lighthouse keeper post with his much younger (by 20 years) and sophisticated society wife Rowena (Heidi Lynch), who is expecting to find trees and a beach on the barren piece of rock.
The romantic tale Josiah has woven of great waters and great ships quickly fades as he suggests books as a past time in such an isolated outpost while she quickly cuts him off, pointing out she is too young to read books.
The audience quickly meets Erin (Perrie Olthuis), the tom boyish looking delivery girl and once a month lighthouse cleaning person, as well as Brandon (Jeffrey Wetsch), the third generation of a wealthy family, who has accepted the position of assistant lighthouse keeper to prove he is more than just a pretty face. He can work, even if he is totally clueless in his new environment.
The tale quickly unfolds of black crows, a scarf, rats, a former lighthouse keeper’s wife who murdered the keeper, a dead spirit seeking a body to possess, a smashed pipe organ that still plays hauntingly, bad deeds done by elusive ghosts… maybe?
A flirtation ensues. Fear is feeding on fear. A gun is fired. And all I can say from here is that the audience was swinging from laughter at many funny lines to nearly jumping out of their seats. It is an absolute must see, once again directed by Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s Artistic Director, Derek Ritschel, who also collaborated on the play.
All four actors, veterans in their field, excelled in their parts and brought the essence of each character and his or her emotions to life with empathy, humour, and expressive facial and body language. Hats off to David Rosser, Jeffrey Wetsch and Perrie Olthuis, all LFT returnees as well as Heidi Lynch who is performing with LFT for the first time.
The creative team met the challenge of this play superbly. Diffused light filtering in, dust and fog wisping through the air, doors mysteriously opening and closing, ghosts, eerie and ominous sound effects.
The set was built realistically like the interior room of a lighthouse and decorated with such period pieces as a settee, an old iron stove, lanterns, early 1900s tools, graniteware and more. Eric Brunnell was set designer, Alex Amini, costume designer, Wendy Greenwood, Lighting Designer, Erika Morey, Stage Manager, and Meghan Speakman, Assistant Stage Manager.
Playwright Peter Colley shared with the Maple Leaf that he grew up in Scarborough, Yorkshire listening to the fog horn of the Scarborough lighthouse. He also visited a number of lighthouses in Ontario while he was researching and writing this play, which was commissioned by Lighthouse Festival Theatre. His favourite was the Cabot Head light, perched 80 feet above spectacular Georgian Bay in the Bruce Peninsula. He especially liked that it had a living museum depicting how lightkeepers lived in a bygone era.
As Derek mentioned in his introduction to the opening of “Ghost Island Light,” 2015 has been the biggest season yet for LFT in its 36 years.
“Ghost Island Light” plays until September 12. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Main Street Box Office, by calling 519-583-2221 or www.lighthousetheatre.com

Posted: September 3, 2015

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