Something Truly Wicked This Way Comes
Created and Directed by John DiDonna
Music by Todd Kimbro
Choreography by Mila Makarova
Fight Direction by Bill Warriner
Empty Spaces Theatre Co(llaboration)
Lowndes Shakespeare Center, Orlando FL
Buy your ticket, get a drink, and soon it’s time to climb back up that birth canal of creation into the cold, dark space of the dread “Patron’s Room”. Light towers reach high into the dome, a projection screen hung from the ceiling thankfully deadens the “echo of doom” and a sort of European clown act occupies the preshow minutes. People are tucked into seats and corners, it’s a sell out as Orlando theater audiences seek out more and more sublime thrills. Perhaps the Chain Saw Room at Universal is much too much, this is a more discreet and refined atmosphere of creepiness and gore-limited scares.
If you’ve been to a previous Phantasmagoria, all the elements are still in place – a cadaverous ringmaster (Chris Prueitt), impressive puppets with help from Jeff Ferree, Charley Smith and Ashley Byron) and an original sound track by local pianist Todd Kimbro. And of course there are stories; DiDonna samples the public domain for his material. Some of these date back to 18th century publications when horror was not so much entertainment as cautionary tales to children in a world of social upheaval and marauding armies. It’s a little hard to track who did what, most of the stories had a lead “speaker” and the ensemble echoed and backed and repeated their lines. Josh Geoghagan played the slightly insane Leon whose step mother was as wolf and his brothers and sisters were eaten alive by her. Apparently that’s how they roll in the Hartz Mountains, home of this story. Some humor mettles the fear, “Aaron Kelly’s Bones” takes a southern folk tale of a man too stubborn to stay in his grave and turn it into an extravaganza of boney puppets and flying, rotting flesh. It drew nervous laughs, and is a bit less gruesome than I imply. Even some H. P. Lovecraft makes into the evenings oratory, “The Beast in the Cave” mixes the fear of the dark with the fear of entrapment underground and leaves us with the horror of what we can unwittingly commit when we don’t have any of the facts.
The dancing between the stories is intimate and personal, some of the dancers are better known for their work with Voci and other local companies, here they fill the space to claustrophobia, and one must keep ones toes pulled in to avoid any embarrassment. The show is fine for older children, and a chance to slide a bit in to the fear we crave as the holidays begin. In the parking lot we discussed what is truly scary today, ghosts and goblins and zombies are demoted, true fear comes from an unexpected lump in the chest or a thick letter from the IRS.
Tickets and more information on Phantasmagoria III may be found at https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/433185886729107