Sharp Critic : Christopher Soden

Insightful theatre critique

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“When I’m calling you…..” Ochre House’s smart, funny, sad Idle Spirit

Christopher Soden
May 14, 2021
Justin Locklear in Idle Spirit

Scam Likely lives in a well-kept, upbeat apartment. He’s dapper, with a jaunty sense of fashion. He’s fastidiously groomed, certainly gregarious. The only thing that seems peculiar is all the phones he’s got. They’re landlines. There’s quite a collection (all over the place) and they’re all connected. Each time a different one rings, he answers. He hears the voice, he replies, but they can’t hear him. Some of the callers are friends. Such is the premise in our hero’s ordeal in Idle Spirit. Written and performed by Justin Locklear, part four of Ochre House’s Ghosts in the Kitchen series, this piece is a cunning depiction of a man in existential crisis. He has an urgent need for connection, any connection to another human being. Nothing else seems extraordinary in his life, that is to say, nothing to explain why his need to simply talk with another person on the phone is repeatedly thwarted.

Idle Spirit is comical, absurd and often sad. We couldn’t really say that Scam is desperate. His behavior doesn’t seem irrational considering the strange situation he’s subjected to. From time to time we get hints of the concealed engine that propels the story. The cigarette that unrolls to reveal a token or metaphor. A phone conversation from the past, when his callers had his number by mistake. Mr. Locklear would seem to be reflecting on the nature of authentic connection. The attempt to genuinely communicate and intersect with another human being. Another soul. Scam reminisces: When I was a kid, I could make friends with anyone. No doubt this is a useful and appropriate gift in social gatherings, but how many of these exchanges (by the nature of humanity) are cursory? Not to say simpatico is only a theory, but strong relationships usually take time.

The play seems to take a turn, when Scam places a call and winds up calling himself. (I apologize for the spoiler.) This (what might be called) enacted koan, a revelation wrapped in a quandary, points to what Scam may be missing in his interior life. He is so overcome, so confounded, he can think of nothing to say after: Who is this? And hangs up. In Dream Song # 14, John Berryman says: I conclude now I have no / inner resources…. Scam definitely has inner resources, that he’s yet to tap. Why else would he want to fly? It’s hard not to wonder if all the shows in Ochre House’s Ghosts in the Kitchen Series are not inspired by the pandemic and subsequent, prolonged, isolation. Scam’s predicament is easy to understand. We learn to manage the quarantine, because we have no choice. But it’s a skill. Sometimes insipid catchphrases like: “Let’s pull together, apart!”and fist bumps don’t help.

Ochre House presents: Ghosts In The Kitchen Virtual Theatre Series: Idle Spirit, written and performed by Justin Locklear. Location: online at: Dates: Streaming: May 6-16th, 2021. Time: Thursday – Sunday / 12pm-12pm each day. Admission: Pay Online: /$10 Reservations: Online: or for assistance: (214) 826-6273