Like other immersive theatre performances, FALLEN SAINTS: SALEM opens in a dark, dark room. We’re led from the street, orderly, through the front door, past a frightfully pale man writing fervently at his desk, and into aforementioned dark room where a young girl slumps solemnly against the wall. Given that the entire production has a fast-paced forty-one minute run time, I’d rather not spoil any major details; however, the overall plot deals with a young woman possessed and a highly religious village ready to smite down the witch — or witches — responsible. It’s a wild ride of a theatre experience that is sure to land right up the alley of those who enjoy period pieces a la The Witch, but always wanted those types of movies to feel a little more claustrophobic and personal.
What SALEM lacks (I imagine, intentionally) in a spacious set it more than makes up for in a wealth of confident performances and an impressive hat of special effects tricks. There are only a handful of major players in the entire production, and each actor manages deftly to deliver a powerhouse performance while still not upstaging anyone else — which is an exceptionally hard thing to do.
Now down to the real question, since this is dubbed a theatrical haunt experience: Would I say it’s scary? There’s certainly an air of suspense (and one fairly thrilling jump-scare), but it does spend a lot of time building tension up front that sadly doesn’t carry through. In fact, the first act successfully builds a supernatural story that comes all but crashing down in Act 2 — the villagers start turning on themselves so fast you’d forget that up until that point you had been watching a teenager get attacked by an insidious, unseen force. And perhaps that’s the point, but since I was hoping for some first act follow-through in terms of the supernatural story being told, I was left a little wanting. I also found it a little too heavy handed in the message department thanks in part to a (well-delivered, but I’m not sure if necessary) soliloquy at the end that seemed to undercut the impact of the play’s well-executed final moments. I also wish there had been a little more immersive elements beyond addressing the audience once and making lots of eye contact. Those moments were no doubt effective, but I will admit I was expecting a little more.
At the end of the day, SALEM offers up an entertaining forty-one minutes that flies by in the proverbial “we’re having fun” sense. The hosts and actors are all marvelously warm and talented people hoping to tell you a good story played by even better actors, which they absolutely do. And even if you’re not scared, attending means you’re putting money back into the local theatre scene. If I were debating spending $18 bucks to see Joker or this — I’d see this again, happily. FALLEN SAINTS: SALEM’s final shows are this Friday, October 11 and Saturday, October 12. You can learn more and buy tickets at https://www.fonproductions.com/fallen-saints.html.