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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Soul Conductor

A new play by Scott Egleston


Or: Of Grief, Memory, and Microwave Burritos


Noel Coward once wrote “There is no evidence that the life to come will be any less disagreeable than this one.” How right he was. Like Coward, celebrated comedian Scott Egleston addresses himself to the noble adventure of understanding the dead, and those they leave behind, through humor both gentle and bizarre.


There are no pearly gates, no hall of judgment, waiting for us, but there is Maud (Alison Mahoney) a Psychopomp, or an entity that safeguards spirits into eternity. Stationed in a comfortable office, Maud receives the newly departed and tries, not always successfully, to ease them into a state of understanding before they are hoovered up into the Universal Soul. Her main problem are the two manic poltergeists Mr. and Ms. Ghost (Nick Lehmann and Katherine Seldin) who wiz invisible around her, make up nonsensical memories of their life before, and plot to murder her (or take her out to brunch, they’re not sure which). This steady non-existence is interrupted by the arrival of a Woman (Michelle Schechter) who is somehow different from the rest of the spirits. She has broken into the house of death, pricked on by that most dangerous of prompts: love, and will stop at nothing to achieve her goal, even should it bring chaos upon the living and the dead.


Egleston is a very funny man and it shows in his constructions. His jokes come in various flavors of clever and peculiar but always provoke gales of laughter and offer a kernel of truth. He readily admits to us that he has no idea how to charter the great sea of grief, and though there never is any resolution or ready-for-home-use lesson we can take away, his honesty in handling that slipperiest of subjects is commendable and his portrait of how sillily we live our lives and meet our deaths is, in a word, True. Director Pernell Van Myers is well attended to his playwright and strung out the play, expertly keeping our whistles whetted and painting the humor on a backdrop of dread over the horror that is coming.


Both are assisted by four excellent actors. Lehmann and Seldin are delightfully manic, serious in their silliness, and at times quietly moving. Mahoney and Schechter both are excellent adapts at presenting a vibrant persona, while giving us a peak behind the curtain at their character’s inner workings. The former dips her performance like a Garibaldi chocolate: crisp and flavorful spunk on the outside, molten pain within, each part and parcel of the other and equally enticing. The later embraces, inverts and lampoons every therapist/guidance councilor/condescending-authority-with-inspirational-poster’s-on-their-wall you’ve ever met. She is smooth, zany, and capable of teetering to the very brink of violence before pulling back again. Though the Woman moves us, and shows us our own fears and desires, it is Maud we pull for, the caretaker, the authority, the working stiff.


I cannot say I left Soul Conductor a wiser individual than when I went in, but I have picked up a few choice memories of sorrow and joy, suffered with those I saw suffered and took delight from their madness. And when I die, that will serve me better than all the answers in the world.

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