BWW Review: WICKED LIT 2016 Continues to Thrill and Chill Audiences During its 8th Annual Production
Each October for the past several years, I have thoroughly enjoyed welcoming the Halloween Season by attending WICKED LIT, produced by Unbound Productions at the spooky Mountain View Mausoleum & Cemetery in Altadena. This year audiences are being treated to three World Premiere short plays staged at various locations indoors and outside (yes, it is dark as you walk among the standing headstones with werewolves howling in the distance). When you arrive, you are issued a program on which there is either a red, yellow or green sticker denoting in which group you will view the three plays with a running time of almost 3 hours, including a pre-show and two intervals during which all audience members meet at Camp Mountain View, the outdoor staging area for the evening.
The frame for Wicked Lit 2016: CAMP MOUNTAIN VIEW, written by Jonathan Josephson and directed by Paul Millet, features a creepy staff composed of Jennifer Novak Chun, Kevin Delude, Meagan Lewis and Sam Silverstein - a vampire, a ghost, a werewolf and a zombie. And while they tell you your safety is their utmost concern, no matter what the counselors say - you do not want to go inside their tents.
But do enjoy their antics as they interact with the audience, storytelling around the campfire, sharing ghostly arts and crafts, apparition archery and more. Be prepared to interact with their story when you are called upon to take part in campground festivities or vote on which one of them should really be in control of the camp. Things could get ugly - as well as very surprising - before the evening is over!
After the pre-show presentation at Camp Mountain View, you are asked to follow a costumed storyguide to whichever of the presentations your color-coded group will be seeing next. So don't worry about which group you are in as you will definitely see all the incredibly creative plays before the evening ends. I do suggest you attend with an emotionally supportive friend or family member to hold your hand as you navigate the dark staircases lit by electronic votive candles or face the unseen demons in the graveyard!
Included in this year's World Premiere selections are many returning actors from previous Unbound Productions (Wicked Lit, History Lit and Mystery Lit) as well many talented newcomers who added sensational characters to each of the tales. Here's a summary of what you can expect to experience thanks to the remarkable talents of everyone involved with WICKED LIT 2016.
H.P. Lovecraft's FROM BEYOND, adapted by Trey Nichols and directed by Jeff G. Rack, features Dusty Hess, Eric Keitel, Richard Lange, and Richard Mooney as scientists who get involved when a great discovery turns deadly and a highly regarded colleague is forced to choose between trusting his eyes or following his brain in order to survive. This cerebral play is quintessentially Lovecraftian and intensely supernatural, with many incredible lighting effects, audience enveloping fog, and flying puppets that enhance the spookiness of the story told among the catacombs of the Mausoleum.
ANANSI AND THE DEMONS, adapted from the canon of Anansi stories and Ashanti proverbs by Jonathan Josephson and directed by Jaime Robledo, features Chairman Barnes, Ariel Brown, Eric Cire, Chioma Nwosu, Guy Picot, Terry N. Thompson, and the incredible Jacquelin Schofield as Anansi, a demon-raising trickster and storyteller who guides the actors and audience around many imagination-inspiring locations throughout the Cemetery. She is the de facto leader of her village who is asked to solve a mysterious disappearance when traditional hierarchies go south, thanks to Ambassador Sutherland, portrayed by Chairman Barnes with his glowingly bombastic presence. With the Ashanti people starving and blaming the colonists for their woes, the demons are awakened - but can they possibly be controlled? Watch your step as you follow cast members around the spookiest of cemeteries where surprises wait around every corner!
Ellen Glasgow's THE SHADOWY THIRD, adapted by Paul Millet and directed by Bruce Gray, features Brooke Clendenen, McKenzie Eckels, Paul Myrvold, Michael Perl and Hannah Whiteoak. It tells the tale of a seemingly goodhearted doctor with only the best intentions of saving his apparently delusional wife suffering after the untimely death of their daughter. The action begins with the arrival of a newly minted psychiatrist sent to evaluate the wife's mental state as to whether or not she should be admitted elsewhere for care. But when Rebecca, the lovely blonde housekeeper, admits to having an affair with the doctor and physical evidence from the dead child surfaces from The Shadows at the end of a long hallway, many things appear to not be as they seem. And I will not reveal anything more to spoil the mystery.
As is required with such a huge undertaking, the supporting and extremely dedicated technical staff of designers handle every aspect of the production from building the many sets (Kurtis Bedford and Jeff G. Rack), lighting the various locations (Martha Carter, Daniel Clark, Hilda Kane and Jeffrey E. Teeter), costuming actors in historically correct designs (Christine Cover Ferro, with make-up and wigs by Judi Lewin and Julie Pound, wardrobe mistress Robin Lynn), projections (Jeffrey E. Teeter) and sound designs (Paolo Greco, Drew Dalzel and Noelle Homan) that will both amaze and frighten you, as well as providing the necessary electricity (Carme Pitrello) to locations throughout the site where none is usually available. This year Joe Seely designed and created many puppets of all shapes and sizes which enhanced the shock value of many scenes, especially outdoors during "Anansi and the Demons" and indoors during "From Beyond."
WICKED LIT 2016 - 8th ANNUAL PRODUCTION at Mountain View Mausoleum & Cemetery, 2300 N. Marengo Ave., Altadena CA 91001 continues through November 12 with the pre-show beginning at 7:15pm and performances starting promptly at 7:30pm. Free street parking and in an onsite lot. This is an intensive walking production with hundreds of steps (and many stairs to climb) that takes place at night, so please wear comfortable, soft-soled shoes and be prepared to follow storytellers quickly. With some scenes staged outside, be aware of the weather and make plans accordingly. And remember, this production is meant for mature audiences and will be scary! Seating is limited and the production sells out each year so order your tickets ASAP by calling 323-332-2065 or online at www.unboundproductions.org.