Household Spirits

Cast: 4 women, 3 men, 1 woman's voice

New step-siblings Eric and Rox are reluctantly spending their first holiday together in Eric’s childhood home. The only thing this high school junior and college sophomore have in common is that they’re both half Jewish, but since Eric’s schizophrenic Jewish mom committed suicide in the house when he was a child and Rox’s Jewish dad is in prison, both kids are a bit ambivalent about that side of their heritage.

Rox’s mother, Evelyn, is hoping this is the one and only Christmas she’ll have to spend in this creepy old colonial. Evelyn doesn’t like the doors that don’t latch, or the housekeeper who feels more at home than she does, or the way the whole place makes her husband melancholy. Melancholy doesn’t quite cover it lately though, because Eric’s dad is in the early days of recovery from alcoholism, and his daily meetings and “complete self-absorption” have pushed his new wife to the edge of her patience. Even the ghost of Eric’s dead mother doesn’t know what to do with her widower. Not that the schizophrenic spirit does much besides knit, provoke the housekeeper, and second guess her suicide by playing out all the other ways she could have done herself in.

When Evelyn brings home a life-size rag doll—a pre-WWII piece of her ex-husband's family history—something about it cracks everyone open. Even Erik’s dead mother is both threatened and intrigued to have anther presence in the house. The doll becomes the catalyst for the holiday week’s traumatic events. She serves as a hiding place, a source of solace, a means for a dead mother to talk to her son, a sexual surrogate, and both a keeper and revealer of family secrets.

This play is a very dark comedy about mental illness, alcoholism, and household spirits.


Household Spirits can be downloaded on New Play Exchange.

Household Spirits has been presented in Steppenwolf's First Look reading series, the Goodman Theatre's New Stages Festival, PlayPenn 2012 Conference, and The Road Theatre’s Summer Playwriting Festival.

Return to list >