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(Ava Zwolinski / The McGill Tribune)

TNC’s Ghost World brings the graphic novel to life

Arts & Entertainment/Theatre by

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Fans of indie classics, rejoice; Ghost World has been adapted for the stage, right on McGill soil.  Following the fragile relationship between best friends Enid (Beky Seltzer) and Becky (Sarah Foulkes), Ghost World is a portrait of a bond that unravels under the strain of growing up. Told through conversational vignettes, the play stays true to the original graphic novel. Director Josie Teed’s stage adaptation of the graphic novel does a splendid job of capturing the relatable ennui of Daniel Clowes story in a way that resonates with a live audience. 

The adaption was no easy task, however, and it may take a little getting used to for theatre-goers who expect a certain amount of vitality and physicality in stage performances. The first few minutes of the production feel slightly awkward as its slow pace is established. Yet, the deliberateness of this choice becomes clear after only a few minutes. Enid and Becky’s  relationship is somewhat strained, and they don’t appear to like each other very much—their bond can be better described as a co-dependence. Their friendship is their only method of coping with their frustrations with the outside world.

This portrayal of adolescent female friendship is nonetheless deeply relatable, particularly when their relationship’s subtle competitive edge becomes more apparent.  Enid’s decision to apply to college sets their friendship into a tailspin as Becky struggles with feelings of inadequacy and her fear of being left behind. Meanwhile, Enid is anguished with lingering self-hatred and a profound need to be accepted by others.  The play resonates deeply with anyone who has experienced uneasiness over impending changes and the heartbreak of losing a confidant due to choices that lead to different paths. 

Seltzer and Foulkes do a masterful job of portraying such complicated characters, delivering haughty dialogue under a thin veil of emotional pain. It can be especially difficult for an actor to be true to a character that hides how they feel. Seltzer perfectly captures the soulless, uncaring persona Enid tries to embody. 

Becky and Enid spend most of their spare time toying with unassuming men, whose attention is a temporary treatment for their insecurities. Josh, Becky and Enid’s endearingly befuddled friend, is played by John Hanchar. Hanchar’s gives a sympathetic performance of Josh—he is perpetually confused by the girls’ oscillation between neediness and apathy. Jake Belman’s portrayal of John Ellis, an overly-friendly astrologer, is convincingly creepy; the unease he evokes demonstrates Belman’s skill in depicting Ellis as the distasteful individual he is. 

Teed makes one particularly risky decision in staging scenes where Enid and Becky interact with less important characters—she often positions the other characters with their backs toward the audience.  This is an unconventional choice that initially seems amateurish, though it serves a clear purpose. Having these secondary characters appear faceless emphasizes how Enid and Becky see outsiders as objects to be toyed with. Teed’s unusual blocking focuses on the main characters’ reactions.

Arranged against a pastel pink and blue set that appears lifted from the pages of the graphic novel, this theatrical rendition of Ghost World is a faithful reenactment of the cult classic with enough individuality to stand on its own. Each performer evidently developed a personal connection to their roles, contributing to success of the total production. The emotional honesty of their performances will move an audience of students who might sometimes feel like ghosts drifting through life, unclear as to where they are being taken.


Ghost World, presented by Tuesday Night Cafe Theater, runs from Oct. 19 through Oct. 22 in Morice Hall in the Islamic Studies Building. Admission is $6 for students and seniors and $10 for general admission. To reserve tickets email [email protected]

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