AT WASHINGTON STAGE GUILD
Washington Stage Guild’s fall season opener of Summerland won’t answer all your questions about whether the dead come back to have their pictures taken with the living. But the DC premier of Arlitia Jones’ true life tale will please along the way as it teases with questions about the belief in spiritualism that found its match in the photography medium during the most tragic post Civil War era.
Yury Lomakin plays William H. Mumler, a famous “spirit photographer” best remembered for his photograph of Mary Todd Lincoln with her husband Abe’s spirit appearing behind her. Steven Carpenter is Inspector Joseph Tooker who will investigate and bring Mumler to trial, but not without some of his own secret past emerging through a photograph. Rachel Felstein is Mrs. Mumbler, who reveals multiple characters from the wife receptionist, a medium and in her former life as a double agent in the Civil War. She is a woman of mystery who pulls out of the secrets of others through seduction or scorn, and like the secret of the dead, she disappears.
Kudos to director Kasi Campbell and to WSG’s fine design team: Pancharee Sangkaeo for stage setting and Sigrid Johannesdottir for costumes, Marianne Meadows for shadowy lighting design and Matthew M. Nielson’s spooky sound design.
The play does not resolve the mystery. If you want to know more about the case, or Mumler’s inventions, or of an unexplained image of spirits caught by a security camera in 2003….
If you want to see a superb production that recreates the past now, Washington Stage Guild, through Oct. 21, 900 Mass Ave, NW, Washington DC. at https://stageguild.org