“The Haint” is an intriguing Southern ghost story very reminiscent of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology and Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, with eclectic, memorable characters, and an overall creepiness throughout the play that doesn’t take away from some very funny moments. What makes “The Haint” stand out is that it is all performed by one man -— co-playwright Troy Mink.
Mink never once changes costume throughout the show; rather he relies on his expressive face and astounding vocal range to convey the characters. All the characters are talking to some documentary makers who have come to Midway, Tennessee, to discuss Bloody Mary, a woman who killed her cheating lover and then herself (and told people before she was going to do it) and now has become the focus of a great tourist attraction to Midway. Mink eventually plays 13 characters; from a strange town simpleton to a humble mayor to an effeminate spiritualist through interviews from the filmmakers, a climactic séance, and the tourists’ mixed reactions.
Mink is incredible. His understated performances are so varied that they have to be spoken of as plural. He never showboats or caricatures. He doesn’t even have to make his voice artifically high to convey a woman, but I would have believed it was a women talking had my eyes been shut.
On the DVD extras, Mink speaks without a southern accent, making his sustained and convincing onstage accent even more impressive.
Unsurprisingly, he based some of the characters on people he knew, but fortunately he never stoops to mocking them; no matter how dense or unlikable they are, he believes their every word and shows it.
“The Haint” itself never gets terrifying, but is always creepy, from the story of the ghost to the quirky characters and the onstage darkness, including a few moments completely in the dark. It’s always believable; we never see the ghost and the peculiar characters are realistic. Plus, anyone who’s been to Salem, Massachusetts knows how towns can exploit their scary history as a tourist attraction. It’s cleverly written, and by the end the viewers know they’ve witnessed more than another ghost story.
The Haint is also very funny. Maybe it’s easier to laugh when there’s a threat of something scary happening, but there are some genuinely comic moments that could’ve been in a comedy, like a tourist who tells the filmmakers what a terrible place it is for children before carelessly telling her child, “Come on, let’s get some coffee.” That kind of twisted, blink and you miss it humor is scattered throughout the show, but your eyes and ears as so focused on Mink that you’ll likely catch it and enjoy it all too.
The Haint contains brief foul language and scariness.