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Wicked Lit Provides Classic Halloween Scares

Tricia Tongco |
October 25, 2011 | 6:00 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Actors William Joseph Hill and Brian David Pope performing "The Cask of Amontillado" at the Mountain View Mausoleum (Wicked Lit)
Actors William Joseph Hill and Brian David Pope performing "The Cask of Amontillado" at the Mountain View Mausoleum (Wicked Lit)
When walking through the dimly lit corridors of a mausoleum, trudging through a cemetery with flashlights or sitting in the pews of an isolated chapel late at night, it is easy to feel like a character in a classic horror story, which is exactly the immersive theater experience that Wicked Lit aims for its audience to have.
The Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery’s cold marble architecture and grassy moonlit courtyard set the perfect tone of mystery and eeriness for the third season of Wicked Lit, a production of three classic horror literature adaptations for the Halloween season.
This year, there are two productions: Production A that features the classic revenge tale, “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe along with “The Chimes” by Charles Dickens and “The Unnameable” by H.P. Lovecraft and Production B which includes new adaptations of “Casting the Runes” by M.R. James, “The Body Snatcher” by Robert Louis Stevenson and “A Ghost Story” by Mark Twain.
The idea for the organization originated in 2007 when one of the creators, Paul Millet, noticed that there was no regular Halloween theater production comparable to “A Christmas Carol” during Christmastime. 

Millet and his creative partners, Jonathan Josephson and Jeff G. Rack, each have three roles in Wicked Lit as playwright, producer and director.
Halloween, according to Millet, is the most social holiday, so it made sense to create an annual event that would be theatrical but in an alternative venue to better serve the stories and involve the audience.
“The venue is such a big part of the experience, so the stories must fit the venue,” Millet said.
The setting, with its sleek marble walls, stone statues, mosaic windows and vast cemetery grounds, makes for the most convincing character of all.
At the beginning of the night, a crowd of about 90 people is divided into three groups and led by three guides to different locations throughout the grounds for each story, lasting about 30 minutes each.
The guides themselves, are eccentric characters with distinct costumes, accents and personalities, my favorite being a Gothic woman clad in all black walking an invisible dog on a red leash.
The first play, Edgar Allan Poe's, “The Cask of Amontillado,” is the most mobile and active of them all, requiring the audience to move to four different locations throughout the mausoleum.
As the audience follows the two main characters, Montresor and Fortunato, through winding dark hallways, the building itself adds the most to the story.

The classic piece of literature has been changed slightly to include a love triangle between the two male leads and Fortunato’s wife that leads to a surprising ending, even for those familiar with the famous tale of revenge.
 “The Chimes” is the most stationary play, set in a small chapel with the audience sitting in the pews.

The story, written by Charles Dickens, is reminiscent of his more famous work “A Christmas Carol” with a similar theme of seeing a bleak future as a catalyst for personal change.
The character experiencing these visions is a poor church custodian that disapproves of his daughter’s new engagement to a philosopher of humble means.
The grotesque spirits of the church chimes appear to show the old man the dire consequences of a fight with his daughter and their subsequent estrangement.
This play is my favorite, because it depicts the best message of acceptance and support of loved ones as well as showcasing the most engaging acting.

Katie Pelensky, who plays the daughter Meg, is especially believable in embodying the disintegration of her character’s dreams over time in evolving snapshots of her possible future.

The last play of the night, “The Unnameable,” is set in the cemetery and has the most distinctly Halloween spirit and tone.
“Wicked Lit gives you that feeling you’re supposed to have during Halloween—a chill running down your spine,” Michael Perl, an actor in Production B’s “Casting the Runes said.

The audience members are given small flashlights to navigate the cemetery grounds so as to not trip over a gravestone or uneven earth.
This is a fairly active performance for all parties involved, with the audience members walking along with the two actors as they search for a particular grave.

There are more surprises and plot twists in the story, so I won’t reveal too much, but the horror is based more on the audience’s imagination, which can be just as effective as any special effects.
“This is theater in the full sense of the word,” Perl said. “And it values honoring the spirit of Halloween[…] a fun, entertaining scare.”
For someone that loves Halloween spookiness but not cheap thrills, Wicked Lit offers the perfect alternative to teenagers in monster costumes chasing people around at an amusement park.
The plays may not make you jump out of your seat or scream, but as co-creator Millet said, “The story is not going to let you go until it has run its course.”

Reach Staff Reporter Tricia Tongco here and follow her on Twitter.

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