Over the weekend I went to see the Wildclaw Theatre’s production of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Dreams in the Witch House” at the Athenaeum in Chicago, and holy god was it ever good! Monsters, blood, comedy, tragedy, copious witch-oriented side boob: this play had it all! I was totally delighted.
I’d never been to a “horror play” before, and I had never seen a production by this theatre troupe (their website says they are relatively new). Any trepidation I carried was dispelled moments after the house lights dimmed. Man, was this play good.
A concurrent narrative about a young woman accused of being a witch complimented the original Lovecraft narrative seamlessly and sensibly. The local police constables (with their excellent Maine/rural Massachusetts accents) were so good as to almost steal the show. Even the smaller supporting roles (bus driver, historical society secretary, library curator) were expertly performed and made sense as additions to Lovecraft’s tale.
The casting was well done. The witch was great. Brown Jenkin(s) was capably handled, and the protagonist was perfectly represented as a gangly, awkward white guy.
The music and special effects were also astoundingly good. I walked into the little theatre not expecting much in the way of effects. The set looked a little slapdash and modest. I doubted it was a facility capable of portraying the cosmic unnamabilities in Lovecraft’s work. Then the show started, and I was totally blown away. The portrayal of Yog-Sothoth was awesome, the stage-violence was expertly done, and the occult tomes looked cool.
Do I have any criticisms? One. It seemed to me that the play might have tried a bit hard to include a sort of “Lovecraft’s greatest hits,” incorporating sub-reference after sub-reference.
I hesitate to tell you much else about this production, for fear of giving away some of the wonderful surprises. Let me say, then, only that if you’re in Chicago and like horror, you’d be a fool not to go see this play.