Light fog filled the auditorium last night, adding a vintage look to the classic red space. Indistinct accordion music and a man’s crooning voice completed the atmosphere with a southern flair.
IU Auditorium opened to a full house Thursday night for the debut of “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County.”
Created by trio John Mellencamp, Stephen King and T Bone Burnett, the show offered the audience a blend of blues, blood and boisterous laughter.
Before the show, the auditorium’s crimson curtains welcomed the awaiting audience to an empty stage populated solely by a silver-blue spotlight.
“Ghost Brothers” is King’s debut in playwriting. Audience members Melanie Malone and Sherry Haynes bought their tickets well in advance for the show. They said they were eager to see King’s work.
“We can’t hardly wait,” Malone said.
Gesturing to the King book in her handbag, she said, “Got it in my purse just in case I meet him.”
King’s success could be heard in the audience’s laughs. While the show is listed as a thriller, the show could be considered more of a supernatural comedy.
The story revolves around a triple death that occurred 40 years prior to the start of the performance. Father and brother of two of the deceased, Joe McCandless is scared of seeing history repeat itself in the form of his own two sons.
Aside from that malignant topic, the plot featured heaps of perverted and childish
A Bloomington local, Mellencamp created the music and lyrics for the production. His work reverberated throughout the auditorium.
Not to be confused with a musical, Mellencamp prefers to call “Ghost Brothers” a “play with music,” according to the show’s website. Thirteen years in the making, the show unfolded in great detail, all according to the inspiration of a true story that happened in Indiana.
Malone heard about the show’s muse in an edition of the Bloomington Herald-Times. Apparently, the deaths occurred in a “cabin out on Lake Monroe,” she said.
The true story eventually became the inspiration behind last night’s piece. Mellencamp is quoted on his website regarding the inspiration.
“Two brothers were there late one night with a girl,” Mellencamp said. “They got into an argument; they’d been drinking. One of the brothers hit the other brother with a poker. You know, he didn’t mean to kill him, but he did. And as the girl and the younger brother were driving into town, they lost control of the car on the gravel road, went into the lake — they drowned.”
This plot line translated into a play with a rather intimate setting. Rather than focus on an excessive production to match the high profile creators, the play transformed into a low profile show with all cast members on stage, taking turns walking up to the spotlight.
This production style suited King’s lyrical style, as well as that of Mellencamp and Burnett.
By taking the focus away from the actors’ movement, more focus was put on what was heard. In fact, no one left stage after stepping on in the first scene.
Maria Talbert, IU Auditorium’s associate director, is proud of the work that went into last night’s production.
“It has been simply amazing to witness everyone,” she said in an email. “From our own local stagehands to the show’s cast, crew, and creative staff — work together to build and rehearse this show.”
Cast and crew arrived last Friday to begin the vast set up required to give life to the production. Along with the three names listed above, there was also an all-star cast.
Among the 15-member cast is film and TV actor Bruce Greenwood and Tony Award nominee Emily Akinner. They played the older generation of actors on stage.
Returning back to the avid fans in the lobby, Haynes said she was seen as a makeshift reviewer by her friends. She said they hope to watch “Ghost Brothers” on its return to IU Auditorium later this month. Tickets are still available for the Oct. 23 show.
“They want my feedback,” she said with a laugh.
Talbert said she is proud of what she has heard on stage in the last few days. After the success of Thursday’s performance, she said she is excited to welcome an entirely new audience to the second show.
“The show has drawn a very wide audience,” Talbert said. “People have been very intrigued by the collaboration of these three incomparable artists.”