BWW Review: Great Frights and Amazing Sights in Robinson's ALL HALLOWS EVE
I can't say I've ever seen a show quite like this one. Not only was it perfect for the recently departed Halloween season, doling away frightful and musical creativity with such grace, but it also perfectly harnessed the power of making the familiar strangely uncomfortable. In the true spirit of Halloween, when uncertainty of what is real runs amok and disbelief becomes one's worst nightmare, this is a story of twin siblings who find themselves a bit lost in their trick-or-treating travels. Toilet paper in tow, they stumble upon a house they've never seen before...and the rest is this beautifully sinister musical treat that is All Hallows Eve.
I mentioned that this musical is something spectacular and new, and I kid you not. With a notable cast to bring the work of Martin P. Robinson eerily to life, the audience does not even see the faces of most of those who make this ghoulish evening so delightful. Puppets take the stage alongside our main characters - singing and dancing their way into our hearts, until it is discovered that they want nothing more than to rip them out. Robinson, who is also known for his work with Little Shop of Horrors, now brings his talents to All Hallows Eve with such a force that is nothing short of impressive. Puppets created through his vision, and of all shapes and sizes take the stage as Robinson directs a marvelously talented group who is adept in making the audience quiver with a fear that only grows as the night goes on.
Presented by Little Shadow Productions and Art Farm, and with music by Emmy Award-winning Paul Rudolph, All Hallows Eve is an immersive experience that compels its audience to adopt the belief of a child - to open up its collective mind and believe in something whose existence cannot be simply explained away like a magic trick. Although, this production is not just about suspension of belief; indeed, it is not meant for children at all. It calls upon the audience to take part in the not-so-pleasant reality of siblings who become trapped in a house with the [only] unprecedented possibility of escape. As we venture from room to room, the story begins on a lighter note: parents who are overzealous about the Halloween season, welcoming about forty trick-or-treaters (us) to their home.
Ok, not so bad. Just a normal family who goes slightly cuckoo for all things Halloween. Yet when the twins embark on their brief trick-or-treating stint on the way to a friend's house, through the darkness and empty streets, they find themselves at a house that provides an unrivaled welcome: dancing skeletons and ghouls of all kinds - another person fully invested in the Halloween spirit. Puppets, masterfully handled by actors shrouded in darkness, welcome their guests as both they and the audience move into the main theater for what is definitely one of the most creative and eerie displays of Halloween magic you are bound to see. And then the witch of the hour arrives in all her glory and spunk; the real fun now begins, but with a touch of an age-old maleficent force that mercilessly seeks the souls of these two children before the night is through.
Musicians masked identically on the vibraphone and keyboard, small puppets who serve as minions to their witchy queen and a dancing skeleton that might be the absolute cutest prelude to a the coming chaos - that is what the audience sees next as the story progresses and the suspense builds. Soon things begin to get scary - Evan is turned into a puppet himself and captured, while his sister Eve must try to find him and a means of escape. The puppets gradually grow larger and take over the entire stage, making escape seem that much more impossible. Yet, sibling love is stronger than this witch ever anticipated, and hope remains strong throughout. Even as Evan' is tortured and his soul ripened for the taking, hope is never lost.
As the audience is ushered from room to room, confronted by puppets and actors alike, this show just continuously proves how much talent and creativity there is left in this world. Despite not having much time to assemble this AEA showcase, one would hardly ever know; the actors are uber-talented, making the show run seamlessly from one spooky moment to the next. Lending their voices to puppets, this notable cast navigates their way through quite a confusing array of movements and song with such ease. Robinson's puppets and the story they tell are just incredible, to say the least. Puppets at least twenty feet high take the stage, controlled with such skill that they are unquestionably as real as any actor alongside them. From Jokey Ghost to Clowny, with their light-up heads and creepy exteriors, they grow exponentially until they are the size of the stage itself; I've never seen puppets of this size and caliber, and I think everyone was quite impressed.
This Halloween tale is sinister - it is not for children and has a certain spicy force to it than is unexpected until the Witch gets angry (for example), or our heroine Eve has had enough of being afraid. Trapped in a house on Halloween, where things may or may not be real and the audience feels as creeped out as those on stage; it was definitely quite an experience, incorporating a beautiful score, different heights and perspectives and overall testing the senses in every way possible. All Hallows Eve asks its audience to feel the terror - to experience Halloween in its viscerally evil and haunting form, but to never let your guard down; you never know what goes bump in the night.
Kudos to all the cast and crew involved. Marca Leigh, Spencer Lott, Haley Jenkins, Tyler Bunch, Jennifer Barnhart, Kathleen Kim, Austin M. Costello, Aubrey Clinedinst, Cedwan Hooks, Kaitee Yaeko Tredway and Weston Chandler Long round out this wonderful cast. Paul Rudolph also serves as Music Director, Alex Jainchill as Lighting Designer, Christopher and Justin Swader as Scenic Designers and Kaitee Tredway as Choreographer. Alex Thompson on the keyboard also rocked it. Credit must go to everyone else not named - thank you for a fantastically haunting eventing!
All Hallows Eve began performances at the Connelly Theater (located at 220 East 4th Street at Avenue B) on October 18th, and will continue thru November 2nd. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased by clicking here. The remaining performances will be held on Friday, November 1st at 8:00 pm and Saturday, November 2nd at 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm. The show is approximately 80 minutes without an intermission, and a cash bar is available at the theater. Please note that there is a considerable amount of standing involved, but there is always a chair available if needed.
Photo Credit: Richard Termine