For those seeking a bit of culture in a Halloween season otherwise heavily occupied by dripping blood and severed body parts, Wicked Lit is one of the best options you can find. Performed at an actual mausoleum and cemetery in Altadena, it is a series of three classic stories with a horror or supernatural leaning. With quality, full sets of actors and surprisingly good production values in spite of the fact that they're actually working within an active cemetery and can't really change much, Wicked Lit has been a favorite of ours since we were introduced to it last year.
With an intriguing lineup of shorts in front of us, Fiona and I set off on a cool, misty night (that happened to be our 4th wedding anniversary, woo!) toward the Mountain View Mausoleum to find out what the fine people of Wicked Lit had for us.
The System - Upon checking in, we were brought to a meeting area where intermissions were held. There were drinks, snacks and restrooms available (which, all told, was nice as the event wore on), and a frame story of sorts to keep things going during the down moments. Truth be told, I didn't entirely pay a lot of attention to the frame story of a couple of bumbling, 19th century reporters investigating an evil mental institute. It was funny at points, and the actors committed to it fully, but with most of this time spent waiting for our next show, it was easy to miss much of this show, especially as it went through every intermission.
Still, when showtime rolled around, the assembled audience was split into three groups to check out the three different shows, where things really got fun.
The Ebony Frame - The first show we got to see, a tale of obsession and deals with the devil, was a great way to begin the night. It's arguably the silliest of the three stories, though it does go to some fairly sad places as it goes on, but it makes up for this with its very dedicated cast and some truly trippy effects that you wouldn't expect to be pulled off in a large mausoleum. Using some old bits of stage trickery, they make a woman disappear from a painting and appear further down an adjacent hallway, and even appeared to burn down the mausoleum at one point (they didn't, but it was still good fun). Though the strangest of the three stories, it was a good way to get things moving.
The Grove of Rashomon - An adaptation of various forms of the Rashomon story (which is fitting in a very meta way), this was the highlight of the night for me. Watching the story unfold multiple times, from multiple, unreliable narrators, it went from fascinating to sad, to really really sad in a hurry. Taking place on the actual cemetery grounds, enshrouded by the cool mist of the night, this one had a particularly eerie feel. The actors in this one were also particularly top notch, throwing their everything into making this a truly heartwrenching performance.
And special kudos to the hanging scene, adding the biggest scare of the night. That came completely out of nowhere.
The Fall of the House of Usher - The short with the biggest name recognition came last for us in the night, and I'll admit to feeling pretty bad about this, because while it was no doubt a very entertaining adaptation, by this point in the day I was exhausted after a long day's work and was beginning to fade. According to Fi, it is a fairly liberal adaptation of the Poe short, with more elements added to it to add to cohesion and make it a workable stage play. Like the rest of the shorts, the actors were dedicated and suitably haunted, especially important for a Poe short, and as the most special effects heavy of the three shorts, Usher works particularly well, especially when the titular house begins to fall around us.
Thank you for joining me this Halloween season, and as always, please drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter! I'm big into liking/following back!
-- Matt Carter
(We know there's a lot of Matt Carter's online you could spend your time with, so thanks for hanging around this one!)