Teenagers often have a tough life, as Castle Cranshaw (Jarris L. Williams) — the protagonist of “Ghost,” onstage through March 1 in a heartwarming Metro Theater Company production — would likely agree. No longer a child yet not quite an adult, the average adolescent is subject to any number of insecurities.
In Castle’s case, that largely involves the trauma that he suffered from an abusive dad. On the plus side, dodging bullets — literally — has given the teen an appreciation for perhaps his greatest talent: He can run really, really fast.
But Castle, who goes by the nickname Ghost, has a lot of growing up to do. Particularly if he intends to be a star on a track team whose coach (Carl Overly Jr.) has a low tolerance for misbehavior.
Based on a young-adult novel by Jason Reynolds, “Ghost” boasts a smart script by Idris Goodwin and sensitive direction by Jacqueline Thompson. And David Blake’s slightly surreal scenic design is just right for the story.
So is Williams, who has a charisma reminiscent of the young Will Smith. His likability goes a long way toward keeping the audience on Ghost’s side, even when he indulges in behavior that’s downright dumb.
Overly, who was terrific in the Black Rep’s recent production of “Two Trains Running,” brings subtlety and nuance to a role that could easily have veered toward caricature. The splendid cast also includes Rae Davis, Joe Hanrahan, Alicia Revé Like, Ernest Emmanuel Peeples and Jaz Tucker.
“Ghost” is more of a series of episodes than a taut narrative. Although a lot happens, not enough seems to be at stake.
But what the play lacks in dramatic tension, it more than makes up for with interesting characters and engaging performances. It’s the kind of experience that just might encourage more teenagers to check out live theater.
Black Rep stages brilliant production of August Wilson play.