Created and Directed by John DiDonna
Additional Direction by Seth Kubersky, Kevin Becker, and Chris Prueitt
Choreography by Nicole Yezzi, Mila Makarova, Chris Pruitt
Empty Spaces Theatre at The Orlando Shakespeare Festival</strong>
As the last light faded on Samantha O’Hare she breathily announced “LIFE…” and my auto complete function spelled out “Don’t talk to me about life.” And then she said something else completely different. But beyond that personal flaw, I found this to be one of the most intentionally theatrical pieces I’ve seen since last year, and a great creep out that never resorts to the Halloween Horror Nights Zombie Blood Splatter Jump At You While Dinking A $7 Beer tropes.
As a writer, DiDonna takes some classic and sometimes obscure horror writing and distills it down to short, action oriented scenes that depend on puppetry and lighting to make them intriguing, if not actually chilling. If there a single strength I can point to, it’s his knowledge of what the different story telling styles require and offer technically – novels and short stories may have pages of internal monolog, puppets have operators and wispy clothes and disconcerting movements. With Chris Prueitt acting as an informal Major Domo, dozens of dancers and actors arise, and we commit to the main conceit of the show – once a story is chosen it must be told, if begun, it must be completed. The Masque of the Red Death offers us the release of quick acting plague, briefly painful and then mercifully quick. Yuni Onna pushes a man to the edge of frozen death and binds him to never telling a tale, even to the one who told it to him. Lewis Carroll’s Phantasmagoria shows that bureaucracy and detailed paper work extends to the afterlife, and Each Uisge explains why I will never ride on a horse. Bantu vengeance and Victorian obsession with youth and beauty leads us to the Jabberwocky, a nonsense poem made horrible with a giant head and a sinuous body and shiny sharp cutting edges, all barely held in check by fight coordinate Bill Warriner,
I’m happy to report that not one drop of real red blood spilled tonight, although gallons of real sweat saturated the steam punk themed costumes and a young violist brought us back to the piano bashing video Art of Noise gave us a life time ago. Yes, Halloween Horror Nights are here again and for those of us who prefer the intellectual side of fright, this is the show to freak with.
For more information on Empty Spaces Theater Company, visit http://www.emptyspacestheatre.org