Ghost Light is a clever take on theatre superstitions. You must never say the name of Shakespeare’s haunting play Macbeth in a theatre because it holds a curse. Instead, refer to it as “The Scottish Play.” Also, you must always leave a light burning in an empty theatre—a “ghost light.” The idea of the Macbeth curse came from rumors that a coven of witches objected to Shakespeare using real incantations so they placed a hex on the play and every production thereafter.
John Stimpson’s quirky horror-comedy takes place in the fields of Massachusetts where a group of ragtag summer stock actors will be performing Macbeth in a barn. Their production turns ghostly when one of them unleashes the fabled curse.
Ghost Light boasts a stellar cast of characters (and some who are Broadway legends) as recognizable theatre tropes: Carol Kane is a kooky, washed-up actress, Roger Bart is the frazzled director, and the hilarious Cary Elwes is a pompous and hammy actor who casts himself as Macbeth because he is a benefactor.
Shannyn Sossamon stands out the most as the actress who plays Lady Macbeth dealing with her own personal problems: she is dating Elwes’ character and cheating on him with Thomas (Tom Riley) who plays Banquo but covets the lead role. Sossamon conveys Liz Beth’s ennui and descent into madness with an alluring intensity. When her devious role on stage and off stage real life starts to converge, she starts to see blood on her hands like in the famous “Out, damned spot!” monologue.
The special effects used to bring the uncanny final production of Macbeth to life are excellent; they have a strange beauty and are quite well-made for a smaller-budget film. Ghost Light accurately depicts the camaraderie and minutiae of the thespian lifestyle. This offbeat tale of life imitating art puts a unique twist on theatre folklore. Stimpson interweaves supernatural eeriness and eccentric comedy with finesse.