Red Like Snow (by Nicholas Rose, and Aerial Segard) takes a look at the human psyche pushed to its limits. RLS examines what happens when a group of strangers and friends are put in the ultimate of untenable positions, an ice cave buried on the side of Mount Rainier.
RLS begins by killing the stage lights on a beautifully sculpted and painted background of ice. Cold blue lights push back the darkness, giving way to a colder, harsher white light. The stage is full of bodies, how many are alive, and how many didn’t make it? How many won’t make it through this ordeal is a question you find yourself asking as the events unfold. Who will break first, who loses hope, who snaps? That’s the well crafted Drama about to unfold on stage at the BRICK HOUSE THEATRE.
RLS is a thriller, like all thrillers, one mustn’t give away too much. I can however talk about the themes Nicholas and Aerial were able to bring to the stage with the help of their wonderful cast. Grief being a main theme that runs throughout the entire performance. Not the simple sobbing grief one sees on screen, in an over acted movie. Cold gritty, palpable grief. Each character goes through the full arc of the Kübler-Ross model of grief. While going through each stage, it’s clear that specific characters represent one stage more so than the others.
Ryan (Ioanna Meli) clearly exhibits DENIAL. She can’t accept what has happened to her, and her friend. She’ll do anything to make it stop. Make the pain stop, make the world stop, make this tragedy stop. She even dips into ANGER at times. Tyler (Matt McVay) personifies ACCEPTENCE almost from the beginning. He knows they are up a river without a paddle, or rather at the bottom of a cave without any climbing gear. Alex (Aerial Segard) will BARGAIN with anyone and anything to make sure everyone is safe, she just wants this ordeal to end. Mark (Devon Todd) and Monica (Melissa Graver) are ANGRY, at each other, at their situation, at themselves. They aren’t having any of this. Bradley (Michael Lewis Hudson) and Jenna (Chisten Briele) and both DEPRESSED, with Jenna showing strong signs of DENIAL.
RLS also deals with loss, loss of control, loss of self, loss of the will to live, and finally loss of life. Each character travels through a complex mix of emotions, while touching back on their key emotion. Moving through emotions, while remaining true to a touchstone, a core emotion is a sign of a well written script, and strong acting. The direction (Nicholas Rose) and use of space on a small stage with at times seven actors was pulled of quite nicely. Out of necessity for the size of the stage the actors naturally had to huddle near each other at times. This served to add a layer of claustrophobia to the scenes. They were after all trapped in a freezing cavern. Besides being pressed for space, they would have to stay near for survival alone.
There were a few physical acting issues that can pull you out of the story, in the beginning at least. The entire Play takes place in an ice cave, with people who just fell what seems like a hundred feet or more. Their movements weren’t sluggish from the onset, their dexterity and control of their hands was a bit too fluid. If you’re freezing you wouldn’t be able to open bags, crawl rapidly, and manipulate rope so easily. Nor would you take off your gloves to assemble a tent. As the story progressed and each character picked up the weight of their own afflictions, body and mind, they took ownership of their bodies. Mark did an excellent job of hiding the loss of function on his hand due to frost bite. Alex had the nervous tension of someone carrying too heavy a burden. Jenna was sick with worry, and Tyler was just plain sick from trauma. Towards the end of the Play each actor was a master of their body, and their portrayal of their individual struggle was painted on their respective living canvases.
Writing, and performing a story, that seems so familiar to the human experience, while breathing new life into it isn’t easy. The good folks who brought Red Like Snow to life were able to do just this. Hikers lost and trapped on a snowy mountain seem like a well used story. It is, but Rose, Segard, and their cast pull it off in a unique way that makes it stand apart from previous versions of the story. It’s like an old fairy tale, we all know the ending, but sometimes it’s the journey and the narrator that make it special.
Red Like Snow (Written by Nicholas Rose, and Aerial Segard, Directed by Nicholas Rose) shows at the BRICK HOUSE THEATRE through September 14th.
For more information please visit. www.facebook.com/redlikesnow
This week in my game (new campaign 2 new players). First meeting at the tavern.
A tiefling and a drow disembark from a paddle ship in a backwater bayou town. Red Gnome, a town known best for being a stop over to anywhere better. Well a stop over, and zombies, even the dire mosquitoes turn zombie. There are quite a few undead cults, and some even had out hick tracts, going door to door prostetaliaing the joys and freedom of being undead.
As the drow and tiefling make their way through a crowed docks, a dwarf dressed far to flamboyantly contemplates going over, through or around the town hall on the way to the tavern. Scratching his Mohawk the dwarf tosses a coin in the air “heads over, tails through”. The coin hits the eve and ricochets down the alley. A passerby picks it up, staring at it his eyes lose focus and he passes out. “Inside out again, I guess I go around, come on you stupid donkey”. A relieved warhorse gives a whinny and follows.
Arriving at the tavern he orders the best Dwarven ale available. Next to him a human with wrapped knuckles finishes his drink. “You call this strong, give me something that’ll curl my hair”. An annoyed bartender opens a top shelf and pulls out a ceramic bottle. Pouring a shot as carefully as possible. The human takes up the shot, now glowing faintly green, “now that’s what I’m talking about.”.
As the tiefling leaves the docks and makes her way to the dusty main road she looks up, seeing the sun at high noon. With a sigh she pulls her hood further down, covering her face. Suddenly a shadowy form coalesces, taking the shape of a prismatic dragon born, in priestly vestments. “If you don’t like the looks people give you why do you insist on meditating with a demon every morning”. “It keeps us alive”. “It doesn’t keep me alive, my faith in the arcane keeps me alive”. The tiefling pushes onward attempting to ignore the apparition. From the shadows the drow gives her and the shadow a wary look.
Approaching the tavern the tiefling steps over a drunken human. Before she can step through the threshold the dragonkin leans over and says “if you can’t hold your drink, maybe you…” Stepping through the door and closing it the tiefling breathes a sigh of relief. Scanning the bar for a safe table she notices her companion happily waving from a table that covers the whole room.
Outside the drow sees the shadow dissipate. The human looking around for the source of the voice spots a warhorse. “Drink, of course I’ll have another, I’m still waiting for the last one to kick in.”. With a smirk the drow walks by “that’s a horse, not a bar wench”, proceeding to enter the tavern.
Seeing all the most defensible positions taken, the drow sits against the far wall, shifting so one eye looks west towards the tiefling and her strange companion, the eye, a mechanical piece spins around never focusing on one spot too long. He calls over a server.
“What will you two ladies have”, the tiefling orders mead, and asks for an empty class for her friend. “What she said I’ll have a water.”. Shaking her head the tiefling inquires about a patron she heard of on the paddle ship, one who might offer a job. Glaring at the two women for a moment she nods to the far corner near the bar proper “that’s the man you’ll want.”.
Looking towards the dwarf, Laschiel notices another flamboyant dwarf approach and pound beer steins down at the table. “Have you heard the good word of Loki, Dwarven god of chaos?”. Before she can restrain her companion she notices wisps of shadow forming behind the flamboyant dwarf. “Chaotic magic does not need help, but I suppose an agent of chaos with sufficient power can drive magic forward as well as any other.”. The dwarf stares at the shadowy figure for a moment and takes a long pull from his stein.
Suddenly the tavern doors swing open and no one enters. The doors don’t quite close all the way and on the floor a drunken human is crawling in. Back at the table in the corner the business like dwarf asks the two if they would like a job. The flamboyant dwarf says he might like some coin. Excited, but apprehensive the dragonkin asks for more info. “Why don’t you invite your friend over to discuss the details.”. “We are partners and I can decide for us.” “Humor me?” “I never get to decide anything it’s not…”.
From across the room Laschiel says she’ll be right over. On her way she grabs a pitcher of water, pouring it on the drunk human. By the time she gets there the drow is standing near. The human chokes on water for a moment, sitting up seeing a large party gathered around a table he stumbles over to see what all the fun is about.
“There you have it, a simple job killing a local Mage, whose darlings in the chaotic are making a mess for everyone. I”ll pay you all ten gold, plus you may keep whatever items you may find,mor monies of course.”. With a sigh of incredulity the dragonkin speaks up “she makes more in one hour plying her disgusting trade at local inns”.
The drunken human leans against the shadowy dragon for a moment, Laschiel’s eyes glow purple, only to fall through her into a chair. Laschiel lets out a laugh. “And what is this trade your friend specializes in”, the human asks standing to wobbly feat. “She whips men, and women for money, ties them up, it’s all rather unseemly”.
Eyes wide with glee the human strokes the tielfings horn. “So my dear, you’re a lady of the red light, how much for a go here and now?”. “I’m not a call girl, I provide a needed outlet for those who need to be dominated.”. Stroking her horn a little more vigorously “don’t play hard to get, how much I’ll pay upfront.”. “If you haven’t notice we’re trying to discuss business with this man.”. “So am I, come one you’re a whore just take my money!”.
To the side the drow bargains a hard deal, insisting on half of the gold up front, as a good faith gesture.
Turning to face the human squarely, she smiles. In a voice laced with honey, and a tinge of venom “oh sweetie”. She reaches forward, he flinches, she strokes his cheek. “Sweetie, you wouldn’t have the stamina for what I’d to to you”.
Her eyes flash purple, than go dark. As she finishes stroking his cheek, his eyes roll back and she shutters. Pulling her hand away from his cheek she draws out a portion of his soul. Looking at the delicate aether in her hand, she shakes away the remnant like so much flotsam washed up from the bayou.
He convulses and falls to the floor. “Oh my god you killed him!”. “That’s enough from you”. Waving her hand she scatters the shadows that comprise her ‘friend’. The drow looks to her, “you can just dismiss her?”. “Not all the time, it’s complicated, her hysterics should keep her at bay for a few hours at least.”.
Looking to the human the drow asks “is he really dead”. Kicking him with a cloven foot Laschiel shrugs “seems that way.”. “Oh dear, this could be a problem, this was supposed to be a four man job.”. “I could heal him if I had my supplies the flamboyant dwarf mentions.”. “I’ve actually got something”, the drow reaches into his bag. Pulling out a cylinder with a big red button. Pushing it once a metal needle unsheathes at lightning speed, making a biting sound as the metal scrapes against it’s housing.
Along the side in common it says ‘this way to semi dead’, with an arrow pointing towards the needle. He plunges the needle into the heart of the human and pushes he red button once again. The humans body goes stiff his eyes fly open and golden light shines through them. Standing up screaming he shouts “that was the best sex ever! How much do I owe you”. Grabbing the cylinder from his chest, and yanking at an angle Laschiel says “he hired us to do a job, half now, half on completion. I get your half now.” “Works for me, how much to go again?”. “There won’t be an again, and if there is, there won’t be medical aide so readily available either.”. She shakes the needle under his nose and drops it to the table.
Later as the party makes their way along the bayou road, the dragonkin appears. “What happened, did you really kill him”. Stepping forward the drow looks at the shadow “he was just drunk, I gave him something to sober up”. With a sigh she says “Oh that’s good! I’d hate Laschiel to go to jail. Somehow she alwayse ends up dragging her with me.” Wandering off she fades away. “So you really can’t control her?”. “Oh it gets worse than that.”.
Dreams in the Witch House a Lovecraftian Rock Opera is a conceptual album, put together by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. HPLHS are the purveyors of macabre fair such as “A Very Scary Solstice”, and “An Even Scarier Solstice”. As well as Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, radio drama adaptations of some of Lovecraft’s finest stories.
Dreams, begins softly, with piano and a litany of monks accompanying echoed footsteps, all leading to a confession. The entire Opera is told after the fact as the confession of a damned soul unfortunate enough to witness the horror that occurred at the Witch House, a boarding house in the fabled Arkham, on the banks of the Miskatonic. As the confession begins the refrains of a metal guitar pick up, crescendoing into the “Arkham Ovature”.
After the Ovature, Frank Elwood (Andrew Leman) begins confessing his spiral into madness. Starting with an explanation of a unique town, and mysterious house. The pressure behind the song, builds as he explains the dangers of the Witch House, and the ramifications of taking up residence in this particular boarding house. The remainder of the song provides the foreshadowing of what is to come, by explaining what has already transpired.
Dreams is filled with religious iconography, or audioography as the case may be. From the confession, to repetition of references to the trinity, holy symbols, and even pagan rites. Heavy Metal, has alwayse been filled with religious references, some revered, some used as blasphemy. By weaving them together, layer upon layer, in what is essentially a Dark Opera, they begin to blend. What is holy, what is profane, are the villains just lost souls? All of these questions, and more are left up to the listener.
After the introduction, and foreshadowing, the story returns to the past. Walter Gilman (Mike Dalager ) and Frank have taken up residence in the only boarding house affordable to students of poor means, the Witch House! Walter who studies mathematics, and folklore becomes obsessed with the Witch House, the stories that surround it, and his room in particular. He thinks the strange geometry of his room holds the keys to unlocking the mysteries of the universe. His obsession goes so far as to solve a myriad of complex mathematical formula, to the astonishment, and confoundment of his professors, and peers.
As the story progresses Frank begins to worry, that maybe the folklore of the Witch House, isn’t just story. Their neighbors even begin to complain about strange sounds and lights, perhapse even a strange creature!? Frank fears that Walter, may just have made some Faustian deal in exchange for his prowess in math. The neighbors, salt of the earth type, fear the upcoming pagan rites of Walpurgis Night will draw forth something too terrible for words. You’ll get no more spoilers from me, Lovecraft must be experienced for one’s self, as must this Rock Opera.
What I can talk about is the album as a whole. HPLHS is quite adept at bringing Lovecraft into the modern era. Often when such projects are attempted, they must be transformed, it’s through such transformative work that old stories can take on new, far grandeur layers than ever before. HPLHS has done just that with this Rock Opera. The use of Opera as a medium, take the story far further than any retelling ever could. Music takes hold of us, body and soul, and when the journey involves the journey of the soul, I can think of no better medium for such a surreal journey.
In transformative works, additions must be made out of necessity. It’s alwasye a risk to make additions to the work of another, particularly such a well known author. When each transformation hits the mark? What you have stands alone as a unique work unto itself. Take the track “Legends and Lore”, one single track 50% of the way through the story, a villain is completely transformed. She is made sympathetic, while still a villain, it’s easier to understand how she became so evil. It’s not her fault, she was a product of her times. “Legends and Lore” is a pivotal track, and until the dénouement tracks, perhapse one of the most important tracks. The past in it’s entirety hangs upon this track, with it we have context, without it, we just have a horror story.
Speaking of the dénouement, there are two endings, an ending to the story as told through the confession, and an ending for the Frank. “Crawling Chaos”, and “Azathoth” build up to the ending, they contain the big reveal, the “true trinity” as it were, and the identity of the power behind the powers in the universe. Followed quickly by “No Sacrafice”, as the final confrontation between Gilman, and the darkness. It’s where he makes his final final decision. “No Turning Back” shows the aftermath of his resolution, which way will his soul sway, did he ever have a choice? Did Keziah Mason (Alaine Kashian ) have a choice. Will either of them be redeemed?
“Between Reality and Dreaming” brings Frank’s confession to an end, with the showing of his greatest sin… This is where the story takes a turn, it wasn’t Gilman’s story, it was Frank’s journey the entire time? Will his Schizophrenic Spiral, break him? Will he find absolution, or simply descend into madness, body and soul lost to the darkness…
This entire album, is enthralling. You’re pulled along the journey, rising and descending unconsciously as the songs progress the story. In the end, you have to shake yourself awake, pull yourself back into reality. This is only accomplished due to the collective brilliance of all involved. From the artistic director, to the instrumentals and the singers. The use of a Spanish Guitar in the middle of a Rock Opera for instance, provides a brief respite, allowing you to catch your breath, before you’re pulled further into the spirals of chaos. I can’t say enough about the vocals on this album. Keziah, herself has many layers, from innocent victim, to beautiful seductress, finally damned soul weary of her journey and seeking ascension to a plain of rest.
There is nothing I can say at this point that won’t come across as rambling. DinWH is an album that must be experienced for yourself, and I invite everyone to buy a copy. Whether you like Rock Operas, are a long time fan of Lovecraft, or just like existential exploration through music, this is the album for you.
Dreams in the Witch House, A Lovecraftian Rock Opera, is avaliable on CD, Dual Violet Vinel LP, and download.
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