It is certainly not Beckett, but as a commentary on making theatre, Waiting for Ghostbusters is surprisingly funny and insightful; as a parody of the 1984 blockbuster film Ghostbusters it falls flat.
A play-within-a-play, the first two-thirds of Waiting for Ghostbusters tells the story of a ragtag group of Vancouver theatre artists who get together to produce a stage musical based on the film about three parapsychology professors who set up shop to help rid New York of ghosts. In the final third the group produce a modified stage version of the movie, having failed to obtain the rights to Ghostbusters.
Waiting for Ghostbusters is most successful as it pokes fun at the making of the musical. Full of local references, that includes a hilarious explanation as to what happened to ex-Playhouse Theatre Company Artistic Director Max Reimer and a comparison to that company’s debt to a Twinkie, playwrights Frano Marsic and Kelly Sheridan seem to know of what they write. Poking fun at everything from theatre critics to the necessities of compromising to ensure a full house, the play has a perfectly natural ending as the curtain is about to go up on the fictional show.
Instead of knowing when to end a good thing though, Marsic and Sheridan continue the action with an actual staging of their now renamed “Ghostbangers” musical. Unfortunately we’ve already seen or heard much of this last third. In a very funny scene close to that natural ending of the show we listen as the cast lists off a litany of ridiculous demands to continue with the show, a scene that is far funnier than actually watching them carry out those ridiculous requests.
Much of the cleverness that makes Waiting for Ghostbusters enjoyable devolves into an endless send-up of film styles and 80s references. And much like that other 80s love-fest The Wedding Singer, a little goes a long way. That isn’t to say of course there are not some funny moments, but they are must less frequent than when the show takes swipes at the making of the musical.
Despite dragging itself out to 2 1/2 hours with intermission, there are some terrific performances here. Jayme Burke is gives a wonderful performance as the hard-done-by stage manager who is also into spoken word and Kelly Sheridan is simply hilarious as the Croatian set/lighting/costume/prop designer Milenka. And while most of the cast plays their broadly written characters with some control, director Vic Ustare allows Tiffany Anderson and Mark Manning to go to such extremes that it is at odds with the other characterizations on stage.
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts, but I am afraid of a show that doesn’t know when to end a good thing. While still an enjoyable romp, I wanted more of the cleverness of the first two-thirds … instead I got slimed by its last third.
By Frano Marsic and Kelly Sheridan. Score and additional music by Peter Abando. Directed by Vic Ustare. A Genus Theatre production. On stage at the Renegade Studios through Saturday, November 30, 2013. Visit http://genustheatre.com for tickets and information.