BWW Review: LOVECRAFT! - DEVIL'S REEF at Blood, Love & Rhetoric

BWW Review: LOVECRAFT! - DEVIL'S REEF at Blood, Love & Rhetoric

How did the words of the Providence, Rhode Island born writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft end up on the stage of a theatre in Central Europe? The answer lies in the work of Logan Hillier, creator of this production and one of the founders of the Blood, Love, and Rhetoric Theatre Company in Prague.

Blood, Love, and Rhetoric (named after a line from Tom Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead') is one of the longest lasting and most creatively programmed of English-language theatre companies in Prague. In the past, they have presented new productions of Pinter, Genet, and Mamet, and the company also runs a weekly improv comedy night and regular acting classes.

H.P. Lovecraft's strange (and nearly surreal) speculative fiction proved to be a perfect jumping off point for Mr Hillier's imagination. He's taken a few of the characters from the stories and inserted them into a frame narrative involving a psychiatric hospital, a cluster of semi-catatonic patients, and an FBI agent who may also be a literal monster.

There's a wonderful black light dance number involving plastic umbrellas decked out with colored streamers to represent jellyfish, and a vaudeville routine involving toy guns, scream therapy, and pirouetting seagulls. The first act ends with a literally demented cabaret song (in German) and by the time one of the actor/patients turns to the audience and asks 'Is there a real doctor anywhere?' Lovecraft's subaquatic nightmare universe has taken over the entirety of the stage. All this is accompanied by intermittent pop tunes that comment upon and sometimes add to the madness.

The cast of fifteen (not including the band, dressed in strait jackets and led by a chanteuse wearing a large crucifix and a nun's habit) enjoy their turns like exuberant children let loose in a demonic playroom. A failed attempt at pyscho-drama is explained away with the excuse 'we're workshopping it', and when one of the supposed inmates of the Arkham Institute is asked why he was committed, he says "I strangled my agent and lost my union card." Confinement in the latter case is apparently a blessing.

Particular attention must be paid to company stalwarts Marc Cram, as a deliciously decadent 'thespian therapist,' and Michael Garamoni, as Dr Gatsby, the head of the asylum who may well also be an inmate.

Many of Blood, Love, and Rhetoric's productions, including a planned sequel to 'Lovecraft! - Devil's Reef,' are produced in repertory at D21, so before you come to visit beautiful Prague, check out their upcoming shows at their website or Facebook page.

DIVADLO 21, Prague
March 10, 2018
Written, adapted, and directed by Logan Hillier
Music direction by Angela Jane Kemp and Mark Newsome
Music by Duchess and the Kittens
Costumes by M.S. Mekibes, Dan Collins, and Mar Van Zellen
Choreography by Iveta Elisabeth Lit
With: Marc Cram, Salwa Dor Carmenaissa, Jeff Fritz, Michael Garamoni,
Jim High, Logan Hillier, Angela Jane Kemp, Beathe Linde, Iveta Elisabeth Lit, M.S. Mekibes, Oscar Nagar, Mel Rada, Radka Vlachova, and Mar Von Zellen.

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