I like that Ichabod Crane believes in ghosts. Tom Zohar plays Ichabod in Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company’s debut production of Adam Wachter’s Tarrytown — with Katrina (Kay Marian McNellen) and Brom (Bryan Branville) similarly borrowed from the old story to reprise their roles in the new. Like the original Ichabod, Tarrytown’s version of the nervous schoolteacher jumps at shadows and fears the headless horseman. Unlike the original, this Ichabod sings a lot more. They all do. Although modern-day Ichabod probably has more to fear from the ghosts and demons within (don’t we all, right?), his willing capitulation to the the threat of the supernatural endears him to me.
Personally, I have long been fascinated by folklore: by the monsters that prowl the shadowy corners of memory, and by the ghosts that haunt the past. Folk tales tug at my imagination, even though I understand that there are no kelpies and water horses haunting lakes and streams. I known that Jersey Devils, hodags, and chupacabras do not really stalk the outskirts of backwater towns. Black dogs do not lurk in the midnight fog, the better to herald one’s doom; and headless horsemen do not ride out on Halloween thirsting for vengeance.
But sometimes I wish they did. Sometimes, I wish all of it were true. I think it would be cool to live in a world where unexplained mysteries and paranormal events have some ring of truth. In a weird way, I think it would soften the sting of being human. The terrible things we do to one another, and to ourselves, seem pretty pitiful in comparison. Ichabod, Katrina, and Brom spend the entirety of Tarrytown working through a set of all-too-human problems, most of which have not the slightest touch of the supernatural. And yet, it’s not as if those problems can be summarily dispatched, swept under the rug, or explained away as the workings of a fevered imagination. If this is a story about haunted people — which I think in many ways it is — then the ghosts we make ourselves are pretty scary indeed.
Tarrytown runs through December 17 at Diversionary Theatre’s black box space at on Park Avenue a couple of blocks south of Adams Avenue in University Heights.