When it comes to the work of H.P. Lovecraft, it’s been notoriously difficult to adapt the cosmic horror stories outside of his writing. There have been many who have tried and many who have failed, but tucked away you can find some shining stars such as Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985) or the 2005 silent film, The Call of Cthulhu. When it comes to live performances, they’re are a slew that have made a name for themselves such as “Re-Animator: The Musical” or Puppeteers for Fears “Cthulhu: The Musical”.
When it was announced that Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre would be putting on a live rendition of Lovecraft’s most famous short story, “The Call of Cthulhu” I was beside myself with glee. Being as this is one of my favorite stories, and having an immense love for what Zombie Joe’s performers are capable of, I was excited to see how this story would come to life. As someone who is a huge Lovecraft fan, I can say with all honesty, that Zombie Joe’s LOVECRAFT’S CTHULHU is one of the best renditions of “The Call of Cthulhu” I have ever seen.
The theatrical adaptation, which is directed by Denise Devin, follows the story of a Narrator who learns of a great and horrifying tale that encompasses death and destruction, an unholy figure with a tentacle face that strikes fear and terror in the hearts of man, a diabolical cult that has made it their life mission to worship the Great Old One, and the deity that could bring annihilation to the World, Cthulhu!
The most impressive aspect of this adaptation was the immense dedication that the actors had in telling the story. There were about 10 actors who each memorized the entire “The Call of Cthulhu” story, and let me tell you, that is no easy feat. With words that are not common in the English language, such as Cthulhu, R’lyeh and the chanting of “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”, these actors didn’t miss a beat and pronounced all of these sayings without pause. Speaking of the performances, though there were rarely any props used, the actors were able to conjure about a setting through their actions that made you feel like you were in the world of Lovecraft, allowing my imagination to fill in the blanks easily through the dynamic execution from the actors.
When experiencing Lovecraft, whether in written form, theatrical performances, or on the screen, one of the most anticipated moments is the reveal of the creature(s). Though there was no giant, tentacle creatures that emerged from the shadows during LOVECRAFT’S CTHULHU, audience members still got a glimpse of the Elder God in the darkness through his shining green eyes and overpowering height. To have the creature obscured from view, with only these attributes present, worked in the favor of the performance because once again, it allowed the viewers imagination to fill in what they believe Cthulhu to look like.
My absolute favorite part of LOVECRAFT’S CTHULHU was the use of female actors. This is not a slight to the male gender, as the male performers were fantastic as well, but those who know Lovecraft, know of his racist and sexist views towards African Americans and women. To have the director of this be a female, and to have women represent male characters in the performance, was exceptional. For all the love I have towards Lovecraft’s work, I always make it known that I’m not a fan of him as a person. I applaud Denise for showcasing women throughout the performance because for me, this was a big F U to Lovecraft and his beliefs, and let me tell you, I’m here for it.
Overall, I can’t say enough good things about LOVECRAFT’S CTHULHU. The actors were at their best, their performances were flawless, and they had the talent to draw the viewer into the world they were creating. Fans of Lovecraft’s stories, especially those that involve Cthulhu, will be hard pressed to find another rendition that is as good as Zombie Joe’s LOVECRAFT’S CTHULHU. To me, this was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at Zombie Joe’s and that’s saying something. LOVECRAFT’S CTHULHU will be having performances now until March 18th on Fridays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7pm, so get your tickets now, before you anger the Great Old One.