Something is rotten in the unnamed city at the heart of August Strindberg's Ghost Sonata. In and of itself, that's not a surprise. The Swedish playwright was one of a group of 19th and early 20th century Scandinavians poking holes in their ossified society.
Their plays, however, didn't usually include mummies. Or ghosts. Or a blood-soaked, impossibly tall cook who starves the high-society family by making soup of water and a few drops of soy sauce.
Okay, the soy sauce likely isn't in the original 1907 text, but Nimbus's fresh, modern-day translation by Danielle Blackbird shows that Strindberg's surreal exploration of hell on Earth has plenty of legs.
This is a David Lynch-like adventure, as a strong young student (Andrew Sass) gets drawn into a nest of vipers within a decaying house by a bitter old man (Charles Numrich) bent on destroying the inhabitants. He uses the student -- a hero after saving the inhabitants of a burning building -- to get inside.
This relatively straightforward setup gives way once we go a layer deeper. At a dinner party that sits somewhere between the banquet in Macbeth and the supper in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, our old man tries to extract his revenge on the home's inhabitants, which include a pious false colonel and the woman he once loved -- who now lives in the coat closet, imitating a parrot and acting like a mummy.
It's all pretty mad, as you can tell, but director Zach Morgan ties the various story strands, emotional beats, and out-of-left-field images together. The impressive set also builds on that, as layers of decay are revealed at every turn, whether as a projection on the dirty-white facade of the building or within the very walls inside.
A generally strong cast, led by strong work by Numrich and Sass, keep the emotions honest no matter what absurdity (I think I forgot to mention the ghostly Girl Scout haunting our old cripple) surrounds them.
IF YOU GO
Ghost Sonata Saturday through November 23 Nimbus Theater 1517 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis $10-$18 For tickets and more information, call 612-548-1380 or visit online.