Philip Graves (Thomas Jay Ryan) desperately wants to ask something of Charlotte, his recently deceased wife. He hires Mirabel (Heather Alicia Simms), a purportedly terminally ill woman, to deliver a message to her in the afterlife. Mirabel is a charlatan, a pawn in one of many schemes cooked up by an unseen hustler, and so she’s suitably alarmed at the arrival of a response to Philip’s message, written in Charlotte’s handwriting. Mirabel resolves to help Philip find the note’s author and during their search they fall in love. Their future together is cut short, however, when the spectral correspondent turns out to be a young man (Jordan Geiger) who possesses the late Ms. Grave’s memories and expects to take up her old place in the house.
The Correspondent starts with dubious prospects. Amid the mostly understated eeriness of Philip’s home, there is a vase of wilted flowers and a sweater draped over his wife’s seat at the table that glows on occasion—someone seems to have gone over the set with a grief highlighter. The supernatural intrigue quickly devolves into a romance with a couple sadly lacking in onstage chemistry. Ms. Simms seems less comfortable with the material than her co-stars, fumbling and occasionally flat. But the play is greatly improved by the appearance of the young man, an absurd and unsettling figure. Mr. Ryan’s dully haunted quality is a better counterpart for Mr. Geiger’s grief and their strained attempts at domesticity produce the play’s best moments.
There is a deliberate ambiguity at work that is more there to be admired than analyzed. Philip will take a Black woman into his home but not to the company dinner. He fears being seen as a homosexual and yet tries to love the young man. There is a mundane explanation for how the young man came to have a dead woman’s memories and yet the play’s end sways towards the supernatural. The sexual, racial, and occult elements are so balanced that they betray nothing of the author’s personal feeling in a play meant to be loaded with personal feeling. But although the thematic content may be ornamental, the play as a whole is entertaining, boasting a gut punch of a conclusion that redeems many of its weaker moments.