Lovecraft Nightmare Suite, is the perfect picture of a Lovecraftian nightmare, or rather dream, as Lovecraft wrote often of the dream worlds, only upon waking do we realize that they were nightmares. I’ll be honest, I am a little biased, I’m a Lovecraftian. I sleep with a copy of his complete works by my bedside in case I wake up in the middle of the night.
From the moment you walk into the theater proper you’re swept into a dream world. The stage is an antiquarian sitting room. Not some cheap haunted house, but an old Gothic house, with dark corners, well worn woodworking, old light fixtures. You are not seeing some haunted maze, rather your Great Aunt’s well lived, yet creepy house.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (Eric Sand) welcomes you, with a soliloquy on the nature of dreams. Are they real? Perhaps more real than reality. From here the Nightmare Suite flows from story to story, each just as surreal as the last. There are six stories in all, plus the prologue and epilogue delivered by Mr. Lovecraft himself.
Each story seems like a memory of a dream, one dreamt long ago. It’s as if you are curled up on a couch as a loved one reads you these macabre tales. The perfumed air of the antique house sending you off into another realm.
The stories begin with The Statement of Randolph Carter, a story which I had read myself less than a fortnight before. What appeared on stage, was everything I could have expected and more. Randolph Carter (Andrew Bourgeois) a traveler of the dreamlands himself is giving a statement on the previous night’s events. Randolph starts in an interrogation chair, retelling his statement yet again. The story progresses to a narrative memory. With the shade, the memory of Warren (Daniel Jimenez)joining Randolph on stage. From there the story unfolds in stark detail.
The Cats of Ulthar is next. Devereau Chumrau sits to the side narrating the story. Like so many of Lovecraft’s stories The Cats of Ulthar is a story passed down, it’s a shadow, told by fireside along the caravans of travelers. As Devereau narrates, the scenes play out in puppetry, adding to the surreal nature of a story repeated generation after generation. Along the back of the stage, shadow theatre is employed, further adding to the dream like nature of the Play.
Lovecraft wrote many of his shorter stories as narrations, either as memories from the perspective of a witness, or as in The Cats of Ulthar, an unknown entity retelling the macabre. Throughout his stories the voice of the narrator is rarely identified, or given only through male pronouns. In two of the stories Dan Spurgeon (Director) gender swaped the male narrator to that of the female. This added layers to stories I hadn’t contemplated. Nicole Fabbri is one of the gender swapped characters. She plays the role of an unidentified Woman. This allowed the story to take on the air of seduction through knowledge. Seduction through knowledge being a common them among male/female relations in stories of the time period. This gave depth to a story I thought I was wholly familiar with. Maya Eshet takes on the role of Outsider. Feminizing the character adds a layer of sympathy one that isn’t inherent when the neutral, or male perspective is used.
I’d could go into the other stories, but they need to be experienced for yourself. I was hesitant to describe the stories I did, as much as I have. Lovecraft is something to be experienced firsthand, then talked about in hushed tones after, lest you conjure up the stuff of nightmares for yourself. Each story, including the prologue and epilogue are amazing. They can stand alone in a compilation of vignettes from several authors, putting them together into one cohesive dream, builds upon itself ad infinitum.
Throughout Lovecraft Nightmare Suite, the actors blend narration with acting, in such a way that the world melts away. There are no cutaways to the omniscient narrator, though the narrator knows what is coming, they still experience the story as if for the first time. Such is the nature of Lovecraft, even if you know what’s coming you will still be shocked. Doubly so if you are the one telling the story.
Aside from the superb acting, the technical execution drew you into a dreamscape. The use of shadow theatre along the back painted the memory of a dream. The set was a character unto itself, the audio and lighting was spot on. I’ve attended several Plays in which thunder and lightning are used. It’s a joy to see the light proceed the sound by a few seconds. It helps make the stage reality, especially that first lightning bolt and thunderclap, when you don’t know why the lights just flashed.
If you’re a fan of Lovecraft, you must see Lovecraft Nightmare Suite. If you are unaware of the progenitor of modern horror, you should see Lovecraft Nightmare Suite. When you’re done, you might find yourself racing to Amazon to buy a copy of his works. A word of advice, don’t read Lovecraft just before bed though. At least, not at first.
Lovecraft Nightmare Suite (written by H.P. Lovecraft, adapted and directed by Dan Spurgeon) appears at The Visceral Company Friday, Saturday and Sunday through November 3rd.
For more information please visit http://www.thevisceralcompany.com
What if Presidents having shed their mortal coil could speak to us now? Better still, what if they could sing to us? Sophisticated Rouge Media takes that concept and puts it on stage with Presidential Suite!
On its surface, it seems simple, until you think about it. How does one go about bringing to life iconic figures, what would they say, how would they act? Can you breathe life into those long past? Writers Matthew Hoffman and William Norett took up that challenge, and the answer is maybe.
The idea comes off silly when you think about it. The execution is silly as well, though that serves a purpose. It creates a juxtaposition. Leading with a silly concept, and over the top portrayals of the Presidents, allows the theme and moral to be sold to the audience. The theme, redemption, the moral, we all might not hold up to scrutiny when viewed through distant eyes.
The show opens to Doris (Kim Reed) singing the rehearsal introduction for MVP Pageant (Most Valuable President). Doris is a historian, and some sort of Medium. Able to channel the Presidents, giving them form and substance. Though this is never fully explained, making it difficult to substitute the reality on stage, for our personal realities.
The show itself takes place during the final rehearsal of the MVP Pageant at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. As the opening scene progresses eight Presidents make their way on stage. They are the final eight, having beaten out their fellow Commanders in Chief prior to the show. The Presidents make their way on stage and strike a commanding pose. Doris continues her opening number (pushing FDR’s (John Eddings) wheelchair out of her way), a variation on a Pageant theme, with emphasis on politics, with a dash of satire.
Scene one comes to a close, and a bit of chaos breaks out. Lorraine (Shae Wilson) the stage manager and Kevin (Adam Neubauer) Doris‘ assistant come on stage to attend the Presidents, and Doris. It’s opening night, and the Presidents, not used to appearing in the lime light aren’t quite used to hitting their queues. As Kevin, Lorraine, and Doris interact with the Presidents we get to know them as people. Thomas Jefferson (Matthew Hoffman) can’t stop hitting on Lorraine in a very antiquarian fashion. Lincoln (Edgar Alen Poe IV) seems quite aware he is one of the most beloved Presidents, and odds on favorite to win the Pageant at that. He tries to hide this with faux humility, though at times it’s hard to buy what he is selling.
Enter the drama! Each President wants to win the title of Most Valuable President. For some it’s a chance to reinvent themselves, tell lesser known sides of their lives. For others, just the thrill of claiming victory is all the motivation required. Theodore Roosevelt (Alex Walters), is ever the tough man, wanting to conquer any challenge that comes his way. While Truman (Irwin Moskowitz), seems unsure of himself.
Throughout the night their personalities solidify. Through carefully placed quotes, and the talent each becomes real. They act both as you would expect them to, and not. Being the American Presidents, one would expect a level of dignity, and poise. At times they are downright undignified. Each taking offence at the smallest thing.
At the conclusion of the show, this is seen as part of the juxtaposition, though in the moment it seems off. Appearing on Live TV has, apparently, awakened a prima donna in each. Couple that with the larger than life personalities required to become a President, and you have the makings of a dramatic musical. Andrew Jackson (Bradley Thomas Kuykendall) notorious for dueling can’t help but draw his musket at the slightest offense. To the point where Lorraine must confiscate the weapon. This allows for quite a few one liners about Liberty. Act one draws to a close, with a bit of a shock. Lincoln is shot, again!
While the premise is a bit hard to buy; the theme and moral become evident in song. Several of the Presidents have solos, in which they show a more frail, unsure side. They wonder if they have done the right thing, or if they can live with the weight of their decisions. In his song Nixon (Steve Nevil), manages to teach each President about the price of the office, using his own shortcomings as example. After the Presidents have grown, they manage to come together, solve the mystery, and continue on with the Pageant in a dignified manner. On one hand, seeing characters grow on stage is a joy to watch. The idea that these men would need to grow in their afterlife, seems a bit Ham-Handed. The murder mystery seems more like a Scooby Doo mystery, even in the way it’s solved. It is a joy to see the Presidents grow as characters though, especially Nixon. Which leaves me with mixed feelings. Is forced growth for the sake of growth, really growth?
Aside from the premise not quite hitting the mark there were a few other issues. Sitting in the back row, I couldn’t hear anything sung from center stage. I could only hear the verse when sung from far left or right. While looking at the audience, others were leaning to the left or right. Apparently straining, as the cast moved about the stage. The instrumentals also overpowered the vocals, to the point that what I heard seemed muddled.
In a musical, when one can’t hear all the lines, you feel left out. Especially when those lines are peppered with morals or satire. You hear the audience laugh, and you want to laugh as well, but can’t. There were also a few flubbed lines, when spoken these can be overcome, and were. When they occur in verse it has an effect of snapping you out of the song.
I do have hopes that this will be overcome. It was opening night, and audio issues can be corrected. Each actor was quite strong, and in command of their character from opening to close. The premise and cohesion were where Presidential Suite fell short. If the actors can come together, and gel, they will do quite well on stage.
My apprehension aside Presidental Suite had it’s highlights, and that is due to the actors. Earlier I mentioned that Truman (Moskowitz) was unsure of himself, this was portrayed quite well by Irwin. Irwin was able to command the stage, and yet at the same time shrink himself down to fit the diminutive nature of Truman. Truman was a President crushed by the weight of the office. To be able to hold center stage, and shrink the character down to a claustrophobic level takes a good measure of talent. Jefferson (Hoffman) came across as a man out of time. If anything sold the premise of transporting the Presidents as they were, in their prime to this time, it was Hoffman‘s portrayal. Hoffman comfortably flowed from complex line to the next, while maintain the mannerisms of someone slightly put off by such strange surroundings. Theodore Roosevelt (Walters) was able to transition through the various aspects of good old Teddy. From jovial, to one who could stand his ground for days. As well as portraying the more intelligent side of his personality, helping solve the mystery. Nixon (Nevil) was fun to watch on stage. Regan (Jim Eshom) had amazing control of his body. showing the slight shake that one develops with age and an addled mind. Even is one liners were delivered in just the right time to break the tension. Above all each actor was able to master the background and the foreground. Through much of the musical the Presidents remained on stage, even when not the focus of the scene. They were able to become part of the background, adding layers of complexity to the scene, without taking away from the focus. This isn’t easy to do, and for the entire cast to pull it off was a boon, in a musical that didn’t quite hit home for me.
In the end, the acting was superb, and in hindsight the theme and moral of the story was intriguing. The manner in which the theme was delivered just seemed off, as did the songs. While they maintained the theme, they didn’t connect to each other well.
When one goes to the Theatre the stage becomes reality. Nothing exists, but what is on stage. If they say up is down, up is down during the duration. They weren’t able to sell that this time. For the entire premise to be grasped only in hindsight makes for a mediocre night.
I have faith the cohesion of the cast will improve, they are all talented actors. Audio issues can be fixed as well. If one is willing to sit through two acts for the premise to manifest in hindsight, this musical might be for you.
Presidential Suite (book by Matthew Hoffman and William Norrett, Directed by William Norret, Lyrics and score by David P. Johnson) appears at the Whitmore-Lindley Theater Center, and runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through October 27th.
For more information please visit www.plays411.net
All Photos Credit: William Norrett
I recently had the pleasure of seeing, Captain Dan Dixon VS. The Moth Sluts from the Fifth Dimension, twice. The title alone is an epic recall of all that is great about b-movies. It’s completely over the top, tells you exactly what you’re getting into, yet reveals nothing at all.
Captain Dan Dixon et al… follows the story of Captain Dan Dixon (Matthew Sklar) and his crew aboard the USS Magellan as they test a new starship and propulsion system. While on their test flight they pass through the 5th dimension, and pick up some stowaways, The Moth Sluts! Dr. Canigulus (Jonica Patella) warns the crew not to reveal the nature or location of Earth to their new guests, as well as admonishing them to keep any contact as professional as possible. Unfortunately Dixon and his crew learned interspecies relations from “Captain Kirk’s Guide to the Women of the Universe”. Obviously this will end well.
Like so many of the Plays at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, it’s difficult to describe the Play without giving away the entire story. In its own way that is a very good thing. The performances and stories unfold on stage weaving their way into your mind in such a way, you can’t resist talking about the show from open to close in as much detail as possible.
Captain Dan Dixon et al… is a b-movie through and through, I mean that in the best way possible. The adventure starts, something unexpected and possibly good happens, and then it all turns pear shaped. Normally because of a woman. The only difference, Dixon and his crew are live in front of you. Bringing a b-movie to live theater adds a layer of realism you don’t experience watching a movie. You’re in the scenes with them, you’re hoping for the best, and knowing the worst is coming.
The performance is all encompassing. The actors are both the background and foreground. When done right, this has the effect of being a Renaissance painting. Each layer can stand alone, and when combined, it becomes so overwhelming, so surreal that no other reality will ever compare. At least during that brief moment when the curtain is up.
The crew of the USS Magellan, is great. Their one liners keep the show flowing from startled moment to laughter. Each one liner is plucked out of a time gone by, but they still makes sense. Chow (David Wyn Harris) the cook, and comic relief is a joy to watch. He has the most one liners in the entire show, and they are all apt. Hashimoto (Vincent Cusimano) the tough experienced officer is the first to fall victim to the wiles of the Moth Sluts. His tragedy serves as the fulcrum upon which the Story rotates, changing pace and direction.
A review about Captain Dan Dixon VS. The Moth Sluts from the Fifth Dimension can’t be written without mentioning the Moth Sluts. Green skinned, and topless (save pasties) vixens with the ability to psychically give pleasure to the point of pain to anyone. Including the cyborg Uranaia (Gloria Baraquio). The Moth Sluts Luna (Corey Zicari), Polyphema (Vivi Varon), Cercopia (Caroline Montes), and Antherea (Courtney Bandeko), make up the chorus line/dancers. Their dance style is straight from the Go-Go era, with all the images and sounds that entails. When not dancing, the Moth Sluts are slowly seducing the entire crew, to great effect. Each Moth Slut has a unique personality, and presence on stage. Each of them took on the task of bringing an alien to life. Make them both relatable, and the monster from our subconscious. In the end it’s the actions of one of the Moth Sluts, Luna, who give away the Achilles heel of the species.
Playing opposite each other as the leader of their respective group are Captain Dan Dixon, and Syphla (Katherine Canipe). Dixon is the standard corn fed American Hero, willing to risk anything and everything in the name of adventure. Syphla a self described girl “from the wrong side of the tracks”, is only looking out for her people as best she can. Through the ever present innuendo “I know when I’m driving on a two way street”, it’s clear Syphla and Dixon have more than a passing attraction. To the point that Syphla resists her nature, and tries not to harm Dixon.
The subplot that runs through all b-movies follows Vickibelle (Heldine Aguiluz), a caterpillar not yet mature, and Virgil (Tyler Koster) the pilot/navigator. Their story appears innocent enough, both have never known love. The end of their story, that’s something you’ll have to see for yourselves.
It should be noted that throughout the extension the Chorus Line had to undergo some substitutions. Lydia Muijen, Rebecca Safier and Donna Noelle Ibale fill in as three of the Moth Sluts. They each bring a different light to their roles. Subtle changes in costume (painted patterns) and movement, allow these talented actresses to own their respective roles.
Captain Dan Dixon VS. The Moth Sluts from the Fifth Dimension (Written by Matthew Sklar, Directed by Sebastian Munoz) appears at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group.
All Photos Credit: Joe-Munoz-Varon
For more information visit www.zombiejoes.com
There is some debate between me and my friends as to whether my character is Chaotic Evil, or Chaotic Neutral with pangs of good. I say Sauvage D’Lyoncourt is the latter. Here is a short list of Sauvage’s actions.
1. See a pirate running in fear for his life with an IV full of toxic goop. “Oh must be turning into a zombie, I’ll kill it before it turns just to be sure”. Internal monologue “I saved locals from a potential zombie”. Reality, I killed someone without concrete proof they were a danger to anyone. Laughing at their cries for mercy was a nice touch.
2. Sees expensive Mead, and money. Pockets it instead of sharing with the party. So begins a long road of pocketing loot every time I find something of value when the party backs are turned. Internal monologue, “I earned it, it’s not my fault they can’t do a spot check.”. Reality, I’m willing to take from the group to profit myself.
3. Acquires a very rare/expensive/talented Phase Cat pet. Knowing there are “missing phase cat please return” posters everywhere I actively avoid the owner. When owner confronts me I state my intent to buy the Phase Cat. Owner asks for lots of money. I shift into a werewolf and growl that I’ll give him half. He agrees and flees. Then I talk the Mage into giving me half the value so he can watch it’s abilities. Internal monologue, “He was just a stupid shop keeper using this magnificent animal as a guard dog he doesn’t deserve it.”. Reality, I saw something I wanted and took it, when caught I intimidated the owner into taking less compensation than they wanted. I justified my action by thinking I compensated them at least.
4. While hunting a serial killer I’m turned into a woman 50% of the time. I begin marking my territory every time I become a man again. I also attack my friends when my make fun of me. Internal monologue, “I made sure the knife I threw hit him with the handle not the blade.”. Reality, I’m prone to violence when things don’t go my way…
5. Once we caught the serial killer I pocketed his maps and important papers instead of turning them over to the cops. Thinking I could find more treasure, not caring that they might need to know where the serial killer got his very powerful magic weapon. Internal monologue, “More treasure for me.”.
6. Receive a badge authorizing me to legally investigate a new set of murders/theft. The power instantly goes to my head. I begin to threaten anyone who doesn’t respect my badge. The thieves guild steals all of my stuff while I visit their HQ, this is just for practice and they return all of it. I swear an oath to track down and kill all of the thieves guild and burn all of their holdings with their families inside. Internal monologue, “They stole from me, they must be taught a lesson.”. Reality, WTF man you’re going to kill an entire guild and their families, burn their holdings and probably piss on the ashes to teach them and all thieves a lesson?
7. Continuing my greedy ways, I pocket two magical wands and some scrolls my friends don’t see. Upon noticing the Mage saw one wand, I ask him to teach me to use it under the guise of being a friendly party member.
8. Blood thirsty in combat. While I’m a werewolf (half form), whenever I kill an opponent I rip open an artery shake my head throwing blood on all of the opponents comrades, and roar at them to scare them. On one occasion I was so enthusiastic I ripped of the opponents head throwing it at his comrade breaking his nose.
9. A werewolf hunter hurt me with poison blades. Once he falls I try to do the unspeakable. I attempt to turn him as punishment. Turning someone against their will is the ultimate taboo to werewolves. He bursts into flames as his bones and skin are spelled to destroy the body upon death/attempted turning. Internal monologue, “He hurt me, he must suffer and flee from his fellow hunters for life. At least the local hippy kosher werewolves don’t know I tried to turn him.”. Reality, I’m a sociopath willing to break custom to “punish” whoever I want. Upon realizing I wasn’t caught I play it off with the werewolves and begin to smooth talk them.
10. Come across a tavern that says “no pets allowed”. Tell the barkeep Jade isn’t a pet she is a killing machine. Still told she isn’t allowed. Told to put her in the stables. I have her wait outside, as stabling her is an insult. I swear an oath to slit the barkeep’s throat at the first chance I am able to do so legally, or without getting caught. Upon sensing that the barkeep might be a paladin, I take out a religious book from a different religion and begin reading it in hopes to offend him. Internal monologue, “He insulted Jade/me, he won’t serve me good ale even though I have plenty of money. He must die for this insult, I should read this holy text hoping to provoke a fight so I can legally kill him all the faster.”. Reality, WTF! swearing an oath to kill someone because they offended your pet…
11. Run across a group of women Ogres. Due to some unfortunate circumstances (I was a woman for 1.5 days upon becoming a man I marked my territory.) they attack to “defend themselves from a rapist.”. During the course of battle I see them fleeing in fear. I encourage the party to destroy them all, they attacked us first. Towards the end of the battle I intimidate an Ogre into crying by growling “I’m going to rip you apart limb from limb and throw your corpse to your comrades.”. When she flinches and falls down I lunge with such ferocity that there is no “meat” left the body explodes into a spray of goop and gore sending blood everywhere. Internal monologue, “They started it, and they insulted me. Oh and blame Sara she attacked them before I could try and explain that we aren’t bad guys”. Reality, seriously I exploded a body of someone who was so afraid they fell down backwards crying.
12. A green dragon attacked us because Sara slept with her crush. After almost killing her in self defense. I used a magical healing double ended dildo of doom to saver her life. When she recovers I have harsh words for her. Telling her if she had hurt Jade(my pet) more I would have let her die. I tell her if she had attacked someone stronger she would have died. I tell her she is wasting her life for someone who probably doesn’t even know she exists. I tell her it was pathetic, and stupid. Internal monologue, “She needs to hear these harsh words, or she will kill someone else, or die herself.”. Reality, she attacked me and I don’t care if she spent the last two days crying I’m going to maker her cry more for daring to attack me.
As I write this I realize I called the first victim an “it”. I dehumanized him to make it easier to kill him. Making him an “it” instead of a human justifies my actions.
I swear I’m good…