The set for horror play "2:22: A Ghost Story" shows the inside of a house — a kitchen table with a sliding glass door to the backyard. The kitchen's lighting is blue and a neon red light is along the ceiling. On the left side of the set, red letters are projected on the wall that read "Shhh... Please don't TELL!" with a clock underneath it that reads "2:22". Also in the set is a ceiling fan and a hanging light. There's a medium/large sized hole in the wall, showing the insides of the wall. This play is being shown at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles until Dec. 3, 2022.

The set for "2:22: A Ghost Story" is seen after a show. (Photo by Grace Atkin)

Arts and Entertainment

Review: ‘2:22: A Ghost Story’ sets a precedent for what theatrical horror should be

Does some modern horror belong on the stage? "2:22" says yes.
<a href="" target="_self">Grace Atkin</a>

Grace Atkin

November 17, 2022

Center Theater Group’s “2:22: A Ghost Story” explores the fear associated with protecting a child and adjusting to new stages of life. This play at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles remains more human than the “Ouija” movies as it dives into hauntings and minor seances to ease a mother’s peace of mind, all at a dinner party. Horrifying. 

The audience is already on edge with a clock repeating with every millisecond as it inches towards the show’s beginning. Will something happen when the clock hits 2:22? You never know, so you sit in excruciating silence, waiting for the sly opening. Certain things like these can’t be employed in cinema often — like deliberate lighting, stage effects, etc., without seeming too desperate for provocation. Suspense in live theater is something to master — writer Danny Robins, and director Matthew Dunster have. 

The use of lighting in this show is clever, ensuring that each dim or illumination favors the story and audience’s impact. And don’t even get me started on the casting. Outstanding actors in the perfect roles take me back to the eras they were part of, especially Anna Camp (Lauren) in her “Pitch Perfect” era and Finn Wittrock (Sam) in “American Horror Story,” another staple of modern horror. Constance Wu’s role as Jenny, the concerned mother, is perfect — stunning, even.

The combination of their roles, the set design, plus Adam Rothenberg as Lauren’s new partner made me think I’m watching a complex, heart-wrenching thriller on screen. It doesn’t have the dramatization of typical theater. It’s human, derived from natural responses based on primitive and societal nature. 

Left to right: Constance Wu, Anna Camp, Adam Rothenberg, Finn Wittrock. (Photo courtesy of Center Theater Group)

While some cheesy horror can be excruciating, many stories would be better told on stage for an audience to experience rather than be dragged along in an AMC. “2:22” has its moments, more good than bad, which is precisely why it’s thriving on the stage. If it were a movie debuting at a mall, audiences might not be as thrilled.

With the combination of collective fear, laughter, and emotions while staring at the magnificence of the set design, this show is the perfect way to spend a cold Los Angeles night tucked away in the heart of DTLA. 

The scare tactic between scenes and acts is undoubtedly frightening, even jarring. I wouldn’t recommend this for those who scare easily — unless you’re down for a ride. However, any die-hard horror fan or adrenaline junkie would appreciate this. It will shock you.

People interested in seeing the show can receive free tickets through FreePlay, Center Theater Group’s program to encourage younger generations to experience stories on stage. Free tickets for people age 25 and younger are available on the show’s page here.

“2:22: A Ghost Story” is playing now at the Ahmanson Theatre until Dec. 4. 

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