I just had the pleasure of watching Sam Shepard’s Back Bog Beast Bait at the Boston University Theatre, a performance that completes the BU Fringe Festival. The show was lovely. I was completely captivated by the story the second the preshow started.
The women of the preshow are what I would love to discuss. The four “Ghost Girls,” played by the talented Ivy Elwell, Teresa Langford, Kelsie Hogue, and Maureen O’Sullivan brought the audience into this mystical world Sam Shepard and Michael Hammond (director) created. The set was sparse, and the lighting was dim. I did not really know what to expect. It being Sam Shepard, I guessed it would take place in some elusive part of the South or Southwest. I guessed it would leave me mesmerized but baffled, but that was it. I went in with a willing heart and mind, and I let the Ghost Girls bring me into the world.
These ethereal women entered the space with banjos and drums and sang songs of characters such as Maria and Gris Gris. They were haunting. Their twang told me where we were but their presence told me where we were going, a dark and mysterious place where everybody went a little bit crazy.
For our dramaturgy class, we were required to read Ned Dickens’ City of Wine: Jocasta. We’ve also been searching for Modern Greek adaptations for our final project. Our discussions in class have definitely left me in an ancient Greek mindset, because I saw this group of Ghost Girls in Back Bog Beast Bait as a chorus. Their voices and instruments were essential to the storytelling. They propelled the story forward and helped to give it shape.
The show also reminded me of the opera. I used to hate opera because I found it difficult to follow, as I couldn’t always understand the words. It wasn’t until a peer told me to focus on the emotion in the music rather than the text that I began to enjoy it. I found a similar effect in this production.
The acting was superb—very believable and done with conviction. The storyline was still difficult to follow, though. It was no fault of the actors. It’s a matter of rewatching and refocusing because so much was happening at once. What helped me follow along, though, were the Ghost Girls. They set the mood (as cliché as that is) and encapsulated the environment with their songs and bog noises.
I applaud the ensemble for their work and am excited to hear from my peers where the production goes from their preview to closing night.