BWW Reviews: WICKED LIT Brings Spooky Literature to Life Inside Mountain View Mausoleum
If you're a fan of Live Theatre, love the spirit of Halloween and are intrigued at the thought of great pieces of literature brought to life, then Wicked Lit might be the bubbling cauldron for you! The horror story adaptation series takes place within the creepy and beautiful walls of the Mountain View Mausoleum in Altadena and even ventures into the stillness of the cemetery. Yup, you'll really be surrounded by actual dead people all night.
The past 5 years have indeed been remarkable for Unbound Productions and I salute the group's co-artistic directors (Paul Millet, Jeff G. Rack, and Jonathan Josephson) on their ability to weave classic literature into such entertaining and immersive theatrical experience. I wonder how they managed to get permission to perform inside the mausoleum and cemetery and found myself reading the names on gravestones and wall plaques, wondering what the spirits think about the whole thing and thanking them for sharing their space with me. But you don't have much time to think about these things as you as whisked from location to location at rapid speed, so be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and dress warmly as most of the evening is spent outdoors.
Wicked Lit 2013 is comprised of world premiere adaptations of H.P Lovecraft's The Lurking Fear, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The New Catacomb, and the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired The Masque of the Red Death Experience as well as a revival of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Upon arrival, the audience is divided into 3 groups by the color dot on your program which determines the order in which you will experience the productions. While waiting to be escorted to each of the plays, the audience is treated to an entre-act entertainment presented in the courtyard of the vast mausoleum vaults entitled The Masque of the Red Death Experience - Inspired by the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, which features a talented group of singers, dancers and improvisational actors who surround you in their macabre masquerade to prepare you for your immersive journey through the mausoleum and cemetery. Especially noteworthy are cellist Jennifer Novak Chun and soloist Bianca Gisselle as Lenore who sings musical adaptations of Poe's poetry The Bells, Annabel Lee, and The Raven. Susannah Myrvold is a treat as the accordion-playing clown who also honored me by painting the raven on my cheek.
Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow adapted by Jonathan Josephson and directed by Jeff G. Rack. The beloved tale of the good-hearted schoolmaster, Ichabod Crane, and his deadly encounter with the Headless Horseman transports the audience back to upstate New York in 1790. Presented almost entirely outdoors, this was a best-developed and presented with sound effects truly making the headless horseman seem just around the corner or behind the tree in near darkness so close by. Shawn Savage was a marvel of raw swashbuckling sensuality as Brom Bones, rival with Ichabod (Eric DeLoretta) for the attention of Katrina Van Tassel (Ilona Kulinska).
H.P. Lovecraft's The Lurking Fear adapted by Jeff G. Rack and Jonathan Josephson, directed by Paul Millet. A gruesome and otherworldly thing is murdering women and it must be stopped no matter the cost. Set in the Catskill Mountains in the 1930's, the Western shoot-em-up action started in a small chapel with guns drawn and knives pointed right next to our seats. When we finally reached the vault, the creepiness escalated when the doors opened and out poured steam and smoke. .
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The New Catacomb adapted by Jonathan Josephson, directed by Douglas R. Clayton. Two best friends make a life-altering discovery in the depths of a long-since forgotten Roman crypt putting their friendship and sanity to the ultimate test of survival. This was by far the creepiest episode of the evening, taking us down into the maze of crypts in almost total darkness to follow the two men as they search for the what could be their claim to archeological fame. At one point, we were told to follow the string so as not to get lost, and then in total darkness it was pulled away from us. Had someone not come for us in a few minutes, I am sure there would have been screaming. During our trip through the crypts, we stopped in a very impressive and eerily lit Gothic church.