Immersive Theater: Unbound Productions Presents WICKED LIT

During the Halloween season I’m always looking for something new and exciting to do.  Don’t get me wrong, I love going to haunts and checking out the latest horror movies, but I always like to search for that one event that is different from everything else.  I was able to find that when I went to Unbound Production’s Wicked Lit: A Halloween Theatre Festival.  Prior to going I didn’t know much about Wicked Lit except that is was going to be live re-enacments of some of my favorite dark poems inside a mausoleum.  There was no way I was going to turn down an opportunity like that.

Wicked Lit is performed at the Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery in Altadena, CA.  When I pulled up to the mausoleum I was taken aback by how beautiful, massive, and elegant it was.  In the middle of the parking area there were chairs set up and beautiful lights strung along in the trees. I already had a feeling I was absolutely going to love this.  Upon getting my ticket and taking a seat, two gentleman dressed in Victorian age costumes came out and interacted with the audience before the presentation was to begin.

The presentation consisted of three interactive and immersive poems (The Ebony Frame, In the Grove of Rashomon, and The Fall of the House of Usher) that wrapped around to the central presentation which was “The System” (inspired by Poe’s “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether”) in which the doctors at the “Mountain View Mortuary and Asylum” allow their patients to roam around and put on a show for the audience.  The audience is then broken up into three groups and led to different areas of the cemetery and mausoleum to experience each of the three poems.  My party was led across the street to another part of the cemetery where I got to experience my first poem, “In the Grove of Rashomon.”

In the Grove of Rashomon
Adapted by Jonathan Josephson from “In A Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

The premise of this story is set in Japan where a mother is desperately trying to find out what happened to her daughter after her samurai husband was murdered.  No one seems to know what has happened, which leads the mother to turn to supernatural forces to help locate her daughter.

This rendition of “In A Grove” was superb.  The acting was mesmerizing and it felt like the audience was part of the story.  We were led to different areas of the cemetery in which certain parts of the story were reveled to us.  As the audience, we are sucked into the story and feel as though we are on this quest along with the mother.  Being brought to different areas of the cemetery made me feel like I was more immersed in the story and the added touch of special affects throughout was genius.

When the play was over we were led back to the parking area where all the chairs were set up for a brief intermission.  Once the intermission ended my group was brought over to the mausoleum for the next poem, “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

The Fall of the House of Usher
Adapted by Paul Millet from the story by Edgar Allan Poe

There are no words to express how incredibly amazing this live adaptation of “The Fall of the House of Usher” was.  To say that my mind was blown would be an understatement.  For those not familiar with the poem, it tells the story of Roderick Usher, who has grown incredibly ill and hopes that his colleague and him can find a cure for whats ailing not only himself, but his sister Madeline.  I don’t want to give too much away as this is such a great poem and the live adaptation is tremendous.

What sets this apart from the others is that it’s actually performed within the mausoleum as the house of Usher.  The atmosphere and vibe are perfect and creepy and lend to the story perfectly.  We were led to different areas of the mausoleum as we watched the poem played out in front of us.  I was absolutely captivated the entire time and loved being able to see the different sections of the mausoleum.  This adaptation didn’t need to rely on special affects because it had the whole mausoleum to work with which fit perfectly with the poem.  I was blown away by all the performances I saw of the three poems, but this one really took the cake for me.  The acting was terrific, the mood was dark and stormy, and the set design was perfect.

After the play ended I was grateful for another intermission as I needed to take in everything I just watched.  I had never been so moved and impressed with a live adaptation as I had been with “The Fall of the House of Usher.”  Sitting in my chair I took in everything around me, the lights, the cool air, the smell of fall, and realized that I literally was experiencing one of the best Halloween events that I had EVER gone to.  Before I knew it, intermission had ended and we were being led away to watch the last poem, “The Ebony Frame.”

The Ebony Frame
Adapted by Susannah Myrvold from the story by Edith Nesbit

Out of all the poems we saw performed, this one had the most comedic tone to it.  A gentleman inherits a house from a family member, and it becomes clear rather fast that he’s more interested in the money than anything else.  Upon going into the attic he discovers a painting of a beautiful woman in an ebony frame.  She looks so familiar……. why?  We find out why very soon and because of this, a love triangle ensues with this gentleman’s betrothed. Hell comes to life (both figuratively and literally) as we watch as this gentleman becomes undone by the actions of the woman in the ebony frame and his betrothed.

I enjoyed this live adaptation because it did allow for some comic relief.  There was also some amazing special affects that happened.  I’m also a fan of anything that has to do with good vs. evil and when you throw in a wedding officiated by the Devil I’m going to be intrigued.  As with all the other stories, the acting, the special affects, and the setting were terrific.  This time we were taken to another area of the mausoleum as well as an outdoor garden area for the wedding.  I liked that we got to encounter things from the inside of the mausoleum as well as from the outside, as I feel it lent more substance to the poem.

After the play ended we were sent back to our chairs to watch the actors finish up their story for “The System.” Where these doctors actually real doctors or where they in fact patience of the Mountview Mortuary and Asylum? All in all, Wicked Lit has by far been the best Halloween event I have attended.  I was blown away by the adaptation of the poems, the acting, the special affects, the backdrop, and everything in between.  I haven’t seen anything else like this on the East or West Coast and I truly believe WickedLit sets themselves apart from anything that is remotely close to being like what they are.  I hope to experience their show again next Halloween season and I urge all of you, if you have the chance to go, get tickets and get tickets soon as they sell out fast!

For more information on WickedLit check out their website  WickedLit continues at the Mountain View Mortuary and Cemetery through November 14 on weekends and some weekenights.

Unitl next time, stay creepy!

Shannon McGrew
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