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Aimless Spirits Haunt Stages' Yankee Tavern

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Yankee Tavern, which just began its run at Stages, doesn't completely hang together dramatically. Playwright Steven Dietz sends his plot spinning off in too many directions. You might say that it's a play about two sets of ghosts, those of 9/11, and those of old, pre-gentrification New York, and that Dietz is not able connect them. But the play has its pleasures.

Scenic designer Jodi Bobrovsky, one of the city's best, does masterful work here in recreating a seedy and forgotten Manhattan bar. And sound designer Michael Mullins packs real bite into the music and other bits of sound that he creates. The play's strongest moment comes when a long-silent jukebox comes sputtering back to life to finish the song it was playing when the planes hit the Twin Towers, and turned off the jukebox along with the rest of the city and country. Dietz shows a heavy hand in his choice of which song was playing when the Twin Towers went down--it's "American Pie," as if you couldn't guess--but between Mullins, Bobrovsky, lightning designer John Smetak, and director Kenn McLaughlin, the jukebox's reanimation packs real dramatic wallop, as the Wurlitzer throbs with light and garbled sound. It's the ghost of the jukebox that speaks most powerfully here.

(Through April 10. Stages Repertory Theater, 3201 Allen Parkway, 713-527-0123)

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