One of my favorite events of the Halloween season is without a doubt Unbound Productions Wicked Lit. From the moment I first attended two years ago, till now, I am continuously impressed with the passion and dedication of those involved in this production. This year, they tackled three new world premieres with Thoth’s Labyrinth, The Open Door, and The Damned Thing, as well as a brand new narrative frame, titled Liliom.
Upon arrival at the Mountain View Mausoleum & Cemetery in Altadena, CA, where Wicked Lit takes place, guests have the chance to experience each of these performances in their respective areas throughout the grounds of the mausoleum and cemetery. This experience lends itself perfectly to the spookiest time of year and is one of the main reasons why Wicked Lit is one of the best Halloween events to attend. The following is a review of each of the performances in the order I experienced them in.
By Jonathan Josephson
Directed by Darin Anthony
Inspired by the Egyptian legend "The Book of Thoth"
Synopsis: Set in 1972 Altadena, three adventurers and their sidekicks are on the hunt for one of the most sought after artifacts of ancient history - The Book of Thoth. The Book is said to grant the reader magical abilities and limitless power. As the adventuring pairs pursue the Book, deeply kept secrets and painful lies are revealed as an offbeat archaeological expedition becomes a race between life and death.
Thoughts: To say that I loved this performance would be an understatement. I’ve since come to learn that most of the performances done within the mausoleum end up blowing my mind and that is partly due to the fact that the building lends itself beautifully to the macabre theatrics that ensue. What really intrigued me about this experience, other than the fact it was based off of an Egyptian legend, was that our group was broken up into three smaller groups which were led separately by different characters from the performance. This was something that I hadn’t experienced before in any Wicked Lit show. As the performance continued on, all three groups eventually converge so that the story can come full circle and the secrets and lies some of our performers were harboring are brought to light during the fantastical climax. With superb acting, incredible special effects, and a spooky atmosphere, THOTH’S LABYRINTH is definitely one of my favorite performances from Wicked Lit this year.
THE OPEN DOOR
Adapted by Kirsten Brandt
Directed by Paul Millet
From the short story of the same name by Margaret Oliphant, 1881
Synopsis: Modern reason clashes with the occult in this classic ghost story thriller. It’ll take a village to get to the bottom of the nefarious happenings taking place in the abandoned ruins, and with a young boy’s life in the balance, there is no time to waste.
Thoughts: Out of the three plays being performed this year, THE OPEN DOOR was the one I was most familiar with; however, that’s only because it has a striking resemblance to the horror film The Other Side of the Door which came out in 2016. With all that said, this unfortunately was my least favorite performance of the night. This was not due to the atmosphere or the acting from our performers, but more due to the execution of the story in the space that was given. The setting is actually really beautiful as it’s an outdoor space adjacent to the mausoleum that is surrounded by what I assume are columbariums. For whatever reason though, the story just didn’t seem to translate well in the space as it was hard to hear the actors when they delivered their lines. Also, I felt as though the story itself ran a bit too long to the point where I found myself distracted by other things. Though this wasn’t my favorite of the night, I still loved being immersed in the atmosphere.
THE DAMNED THING
Adapted by Jeff G. Rack
Directed by Sebastian Munoz
From the short story of the same name by Ambrose Bierce, 1893
Synopsis: A man is part of an investigation into his own mysterious and brutal death. When the dead man’s friend becomes a suspect in his murder, he uses his newfound spirit powers to discover who - or what - really killed him.
Thoughts: The third performance ended up being my other favorite adaptation of the evening as I absolutely loved everything that was happening in THE DAMNED THING. From the story to the different locations we were taken as the tale unfolded, this show had everything I could hope for in a performance. Along with the superb storytelling and the eerie atmosphere, the directing was expertly done and the lead actors performances were on point. As much as I loved all that I just mentioned, my favorite part was being able to go into a part of the mausoleum that I hadn’t before gone through which was followed by the actors bringing us outdoors and into the cemetery across the street. Even the special effects at the end managed to be eye-catching and impactful resulting in an overall performance that blew me away.
In-between each performance, guests are given a brief intermission where we are told the story of Liliom, a purgatory of sorts, performed by four characters who want nothing more than to finally be welcomed into Heaven. This was one of my favorite parts of this year’s Wicked Lit as the story was engaging and elicited an array of emotions that included happiness, laughter, sadness, and hope. Each actor brought their A-game, but I found myself being insanely captivated by actress Tosca Minotto. To say she was a firecracker that stole the entire show would be a huge understatement and moving forward I will definitely be keeping an eye on her career.
Overall, Wicked Lit once again proves that they know how to bring the Halloween spirit to California. As this is my third year attending, I think it’s safe to say that they have a life-long fan with me. Halloween may be over, but that doesn’t mean that Wicked Lit is, as there run extends into the month of November with performances up until November 11. If you are feeling sad that all the Christmas decor is out in full bloom and are looking for a way to recapture that Halloween spirit, then make sure to get tickets to Wicked Lit before it’s too late!