1881 themes resonate in North Coast Rep’s ‘Ghosts’

Most people who hear the title “Ghosts” in reference to a script think about the 1990 movie “Ghost” starring the late Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. The play, written in 1881 by Henrik Ibsen and adapted for the North Coast Repertory Theatre by Anne-Charlotte Harvey, is nothing like that movie, but has enough punch and captivating delivery by its cast to be engrossing.

The comfy stage setting of widow Helene Alving’s (Rosina Reynolds) seaport home reveals little of the intrigue that will soon take place there. As Pastor Manders (John Herzog) arrives, his conversation with Helene discloses there is to be a grand opening of an orphanage the next day that she is dedicating to her late husband.

But things turn topsy-turvy when Helene’s prodigal son Osvald (Richard Baird) returns home. Helene is so overjoyed to have him back that she misses the look of allure in his eyes when he sees housemaid Regine Engstrand (Aimee Burdette).

Helene took Regine in under odd circumstances. One is that Helene doesn’t want her living with her peculiar father (Jonathan McMurtry), who has just finished helping build the orphanage; and second is that there’s a dreaded family secret regarding Regine.

All of this intrigue results in several issues that scandalized 1880s audiences, but are issues society deals with today. It’s enjoyable to try to guess what’s coming while watching “Ghosts,” but this cast is so exceptional that no one tips his (or her) hand for even a moment.

McMurtry’s role is not a large part of the play, but the accomplished actor can profoundly engage an audience more in 10 minutes than some actors can in an hour. His Engstrand is slightly amusing while drawing the audience into the mystery of the story.

Reynolds, a constant powerhouse at NCR, once again immerses herself into a character who fascinates and continues to hold our interest.

Baird’s performance is so solid, it’s hard to take your eyes off him. He makes an easy transformation from one personality to another so quickly that he seems like two different actors.

The ghosts in the play are subliminal, and whether you understand the reference or not, the play entertains from beginning to end.


  • What: Henrik Ibsen’s 1881 scathing commentary on 19th century morality
  • Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987

Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach

  • When: 8 p.m. April 22, 23, 29 and 30; 2 and 8 p.m. April 24 and May 1; 2 and 7 p.m. April 25 and May 2; 7 p.m. April 28
  • Tickets: $30-$47; (858) 481-1055,