Written/Adapted by David Denman
Of all things that go bump in the night, this is not one of them
|Clock Productions presents|
|Scary Tales 2013|
Review by Anuja Vaidya
A word of warning: Scary Tales 2013 doesn’t quite live up to its name. Scary isn’t quite the word I would use to describe any of the stories that Clock Productions dramatizes in this vignette show. Bizarre tales, perhaps. Ill-fated tales, maybe. Tales that are even a little funny. But none are particularly scary.
In the show, six stories are dramatized. They are adapted from folklore, camp stories and even ‘cautionary tales’ from the 1950’s. They range from tales set in Victorian England and Ancient China to ones set in the American South and in Romania. Like any vignette show, it moves from one story to the next with a quick blackout.
Overall the cast keeps the energy level high and injects humor into the otherwise sombre tales. At points, their comic timing is spot on and you find yourself laughing just before the story takes a bizarre turn. The cast also complements each other and they work well as an ensemble, which is particularly important for vignette shows that require actors to switch roles quickly. Heather VanderWhielen, in particular, shines in all the roles that she takes on in this show – from Alice, the two-faced young lover to the narrator telling us a tale of unfortunate choices.
But, the high energy and humor also makes the whole show confusing. You are never quite sure what you are supposed to be feeling. Within each story there is no emotional arc taking us from a normal situation to a terrifying one. The story set in Victorian England, for example, opens promisingly, with slightly exaggerated accents and acting. But before you know it, the situation turns gory and there isn’t enough time to truly feel any surprise or horror.
Pace seems to be a problem through the show. Some stories tend to drag while others don’t go on long enough for them to sink in. For example, the story about three girls ill-fated encounter on a train in Romania takes far too long to build up to the climax – a climax that you can more or less guess when the story begins.
The music and lighting is well done and sets the scene for tales of horror and gore. Unfortunately, the plotlines of the tales and the acting style of the performers is at odds with the emotion that the music and lighting design evokes, once again leaving you feeling confused.
The lack of clarity about what emotion this show is trying to evoke is ultimately what makes it a less than enjoyable theater experience. Perhaps with focusing on just the ‘horror’ aspect of the show or just the ‘comedy’ aspect would help. There is nothing wrong with a horror show and nothing wrong with a tongue-in-cheek and humorous parody of a horror show. It feels as though Scary Tales 2013 is trying to be both, but ends up being neither.
Scary Tales 2013 continues through February 9th at National Pastime Theater, 941 W. Lawrence (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $10-$15, and are available by phone (773-665-9270) or online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at ClockTheater.com. (Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes, no intermission)
Rachel Craig; Alyson Fowler; Keith Glab; Bernadette Rose; Will Snyder; Heather VanderWielen
behind the scenes
David Denman (co-director, set, playwright); Alek White (co-director); Arin Mulvaney (Costumes); Laurence Bryan (Sound); Scott Pillsbury (Lights); Rachel Holland (Stage Manager); L.Bryan (photos)