Fright Night

Review by Bob Greene
Original Poster Artwork by Songe Riddle

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As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, the Grand Guignol of Paris, using tech tricks and old-fashioned fright, allowed us to be scared by live theater. An audience could sit in a dark crowded space and be taken on a journey into the unreal. Those were the days.

Andrew Rothkin and Jay Michaels brought that kind of horror night back for a brief two-evening jaunt, until Brigadoon-like it will vanish until next Halloween. Things That Go Bump in the Night, thanks to clever screen projections allowed us to return to the Night Gallery for ten tales – some funny, some scary, some good, some otherwise, but all with ghoulish flavor.

The night opened with THE CHANGE by Andrew Rothkin; directed by Robert Armin and starring Jon Noto. A well-written tale of a man’s dark side winning over him. Good as it was, it could have been more gripping, but its overuse of sound and visual effects muddied its shock ending thus losing some of the needed tension.
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No disappointment with THE GREENHOUSE by Mark Cornell, helmed by Scott H. Schneider starring Nitin Madan, Sara Minisquiero & Nic Tyler. bump6 One of the best of the night, this comedic chiller, involving two idiot kidnappers and their demonic charge, gave us laughs and screams with some excellent acting and simple but engrossing staging. The ending was welcomed thanks to the relish of Sara Minisquero. NOT FUNNY by Christopher Lockheardt (Ariel Leigh Cohen, dir.; Bill Moore & Janette Zapata, the players) was also a crowd-pleaser. This gory-humor piece was truly entertaining thanks to swift direction and fine comic acting.bump4 Jonathan Wallace’s UFO WEATHER (Erin Soler, dir.; with Charlie Jhaye & Jennifer Lynn Tune) is a well-acted and well-staged relationship play but it lost some impact as it’s not really a horror play. In a regular short play series, this would have shined more. It was still a worthy watch.

Another pleasure was A TROUBLED HEART, bump7 written and directed by Constance George, with Vance Clemente & Wende O’Reilly. A sweet, well-done homage to The Twilight Zone-style of this genre was a real treat. Nice chemistry between the actors left us wanting more and allowed us to be taken unaware by the ending. CALL UPON by Devlin Giroux and staged by Andrew Rothkin, with Emilio Evans, Ellen Karis & Samantha Randolph, Adit Dileep & Charlie Jhaye was an interesting piece kept crisp by Andrew Rothkin’s direction. bump5

The best two of the night could have been bookends for each other:
THE MONSTER SEATED NEXT TO ME by Steven Korbar with direction by Jay Michaels, starred character actor and was a stand-out. Tense, chillingly funny, well-acted and directed, it told the tale of a nasty “Twilight” fan coming head-to-fang with the genuine article. Frank Carandini’s perfectly played creature of the night was a feast for those who relished the old movie macabre-makers. dracula
Following MONSTER was the best of the night, FANG by Alex Dreman; staged by James Monohan; starring Lili Klein & Ben Rezendes. James Monohan supplied all the great twists and turns for the genre included creepy music and fun lighting effects and then peppered the whole endeavor with Carol Burnett quality sketch humor. The very witty ending could have had a bit more exposition to guarantee everyone would get it but whether you laughed in the theater or the car ride home, you’ll have to admit it was worth it. Ironically, Rezendes suffering pretty boy vampire was every bit what Carandini’s aged bastion of the good old days railed against.

Gluing the ten plays together were a bevy of horror hosts supplying laughter, good scares, and even a musical number to two. Each was a tribute to a horror host of the past with Sara Minisquero and Melissa Skirboll appearing in certain segments weaving the whole thing together. We were treated to Vampira (Marlain Angelides), Zacherley (Alex Mark Eckstorm), the Crypt-Keeper (Minisquero) and a Scream-Queen (Skirboll) but it was Greg Pragel’s spot-on Rod Serling (complete with “black & white” make-up) that really commanded our attention.
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In the end, everybody – on stage and in the sold-out audience – had a blast and – like the Universal Pictures monsters of the 30s and 40s – that is always worth the trip.

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