Image courtesy Workhaus Collective
There's something wrong in New Orleans, specifically at the decaying mansion at the heart of Christina Ham's The Hollow.
Layers of deceit and generations of pain are at the heart of the story, though it comes out via a trio of characters locked into some very bad juju.
Ham plays with a lot of different layers throughout the script, working to craft a spellbinding and suspenseful supernatural thriller while also exploring the social ramifications of long-ago crimes. It only partially works. The stage is set for a piece that is much scarier and much more probing than it ends up being.
At the center of the tale are Olivia (Miram Schwartz) and Wes (Pearce Bunting), two constantly recovering junkies whose codependency has brought them to Olivia's New Orleans' family home.
There is a definite pall over the house. Her mother has recently died and her younger brother is missing. This means the home will be hers, and will serve as a perfect place for the pair to try and get their lives back into order.
Unexpectedly, one of the family's servants, Rosette (Signe V.Harriday) is still on hand. She has a tight connection to the family, running back to when they owned the plantation (and the slaves) on the site. She has fiercely protected Olivia's sickly younger brother, and is willing to do whatever it takes to find him.
Not surprisingly, Olivia and Wes do have something to do with the disappearance. They have a not-particularly well-thought-out plan for the future, if they can stay sort-of straight and also ignore all the strange sounds and sights of the house.
Ham doesn't merge the supernatural side of the story to the more socially charged side, which gives the show a halting pace that doesn't offer much insight into America's sordid history or provide a platform for building dread. There are moments of both that absolutely work, but the whole piece just doesn't hold together.
That's a shame, as the pieces are in place in the story and the production, led by Hayley Finn's solid direction and Amanda Wambach's evocative set. Toss in the excellent sound and light design from Mike Kittel and Daniel Dukich, and you have a great platform that doesn't ultimately achieve what it set out to do.
IF YOU GO:
Through Oct. 12
2301 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
For tickets and information, call 800.838.3006 or visit online.