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A Halloween Treat

October 20, 2013

nightmare3_pcard_notext_webLovecraft 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.

LOVECRAFT - HP photoHoward 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.

LOVECRAFT - Cats photo1The 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 - Cool Air photo2Lovecraft 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.

LOVECRAFT - Nyarlathotep photo1Aside 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, January 31st through March 2nd.

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