This will likely be the last of my reviews from the TCHF. I’d love to catch the last three shows I need to see on Saturday, if my schedule will allow for it I will and be sure I’ll post reviews. This was my first experience with this festival and I strongly recommend that people get out and see the shows. Everyone of them still as at least one performance left, most two and some three. I have found something rewarding in each of the shows. As delighted as I was with the first five shows I reviewed I was blown away by this second batch. I expected more of the shows to be genuinely scary, most have not been, but they have been fascinating all the same. The one Play that actually delivered in spades on the scares was also my favorite of the Festival and the first up for this review and it is.
Dangerous Productions’ Frankenstein by Tyler Olsen-Highness is not your father’s Frankenstein. This is a modern story told in a nonlinear fever dream, Mary Shelly’s book is referenced by the characters and they all have the names of characters from the book. Victor is still the creator of the horrors, but he is more of a sociopathic obsessive than a misguided genius. The cast is uniformly effective and intense. Much of the play is played in the dark with lighting effects and flashlights used to startle, misdirect and create uneasiness. The play progresses from creepy lighting effects to ever more startling moments. Our eyes temporary blinded by lights being pointed directly at us are not prepared for the movements of the characters. Frankenstein is also by far the bloodiest of the festival. There are some extremely effective moments of violence and gore. This is not the show to bring the tweens or younger too, but everyone else should be sure to make this the top of your “to see” list. Frankenstein puts the Horror in TCHF!
The Rule of Three
The Rule of Three is a trip-tech of an anthology of anthology shows. It’s not that scary but it’s still dead brilliant. Presented by Four Humors Theater and written by Matt Spring, who is also one of the three performers along with Ryan Lear and Brant Miller. The show presents three different stories each reminding me of a different anthology TV show. The first act plays like an episode of Black Mirror, it is set in the future and involves the evolution of Deepfake technology. The show makes extensive use of video footage is a very clever indication of the ways in which technology has become even more enmeshed in our society in the future. Smart and funny as it begins, it grows darker ending as a cautionary what if. The second act is entirely video, it is a pastiche of the 1990’s TV series Are you Afraid of the Dark? Even going so far as to replicate that series campfire set up. This Act is about as scary as one of those episodes but it makes up for a lack of frights by being hysterically funny. The final act is completely humorless and the darkest of the three. It tells the story of an group of settlers making the trek to the west coast who are stranded as winter sets in and have to do whatever they can to stay alive through the winter. It is told by jumping back and forth in time, revealing new pieces of information with each change in the timeline, slowly revealing what lengths they have resorted to. This act reminded me, as did the entire production in a way of a great British anthology show called Inside No. 9. For sheer entertainment The Rule of Three is the show to see.
Amp written and performed by Jody Christopherson is easily the most political and serious minded of the productions I’ve seen at the TCHF. Christopherson plays Mary Shelley and tells the story of the woman who created one of the most enduring mythologies of the last 200 (ok actually 201 years). The productions main thrust is not the story of Frankenstein’s creation but of the creator herself. We learn a tremendous amount about Shelley during the course of the play a woman very much ahead of her time, a feminist from a patriarchal era. Brought up to be a free thinker and follow her heart, she was let down by a society that did not give women the same rights as men or allow them the same humanity even. Throughout her story we see details that will work their way into her immortal story. The script and performance have been honed to a T. There does not seem to be any padding, every line of the script either contributes essential details or helps to convey the emotions of this fiery woman. The performance of Christopherson is passionate and intense, being the only performer she has a lot to carry a lot of information to convey while still informing us of Shelley’s emotional states as well. There are horrific elements on the production, but to my mind this is a “me too” story, timely and important as we look back all those years ago and see that many of those same shadows still hang over us today. More of an think piece than an entertainment, but that is what is so fascinating about this festival, the variety of what is presented.
…And What Alice Found There
The Winding Sheet Outfit’s production of …And What Alice Found There explores the relationship between Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll and Alice Pleasance Liddell, the basis for Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass? The question mark reflects the nature of the show which asks questions but doesn’t provide answers. Does that sound like a cheat? Well it isn’t, because there are no answers to the questions it raises. The production is seemingly a meeting between Dodgson and Alice when she is older, but the meeting seems to be taking place in Wonderland and Alice is accompanied by the denizens of that place…or other children who were friends of Dodgsons. While never actually scary in itself this show finds it’s horror in the possibilities it suggests, and they are much more disturbing than what my son used to refer to as poppy outies. There is a dreamlike quality to much of the proceedings with an edge of creepiness on two fronts. The relationship being examined has sinister overtones but is discussed with an almost whimsical tone. The children at times amusing can also be creepy such as when they parade about wearing masks of animals or when their silliness dips into mania. The production makes great use of silhouettes to create visuals illustrating ideas such as a poetic passage from a book. The sound design is also very effective in amplifying the discordant tones and suggestions. Creative use of various instruments for creating these sounds like using a violin bow on a metal bowl to create a sound that seems almost normal but not quite right, just as Dodgson’s relationship with Alice comes off. The point is to present this unknowable relationship and question it, while essentially admitting that we don’t know. It seems odd, and if it were happening today there would probably be an investigation…but we don’t really know.
you can find the schedule for all shows and purchase tickets at http://www.tchorrorfestival.com/ . The festival runs through Sunday Nov. 3rd. The wonderful thing about covering this festival has been to see the variety of work. Everything from truly scary stories to shadow puppets and science fiction. Also the creative ways in which the artists have found to share their ideas. This festival reminds us of all the talent and creativity out there and theaters ability to bring those things together to entertain, teach and yes, frighten us.