If you’re heeding the advice of health officials and staying home this Saturday instead of trick-or-treating or partying, you are in luck.
The Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s (LBSC) streaming productions of “War of the Worlds” and stories by Edgar Allan Poe capture the scary tone we all want right now while stuck in the horror of our confinement.
War of the Worlds
This is LBSC’s 19th production of the 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio play by Orson Welles, based on Howard E. Koch’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’s original novel.
And they’ve got it down– the six-member cast’s dramatic radio delivery about an invasion of Martians is sharp and compelling. They even perform sound effects and live music from the KBRD station within the Helen Borgers Theatre.
The story of “War of the Worlds” begins calmly enough on Halloween eve in New York, with a musical radio-broadcast direct from the Plaza Hotel.
But soon enough, the broadcast is interrupted with news of strange events on a New Jersey farm. Updates become more frequent as the horrifying events develop, eventually taking over the night.
The entire cast coordinate extremely well and each contributes excellently to the well-paced production.
Jo McLachlan stands out as the dauntless female reporter interviewing a Princeton astronomer and a farmer (Andy Kallok) on whose land a mysterious metal object has suddenly plummeted from space.
And Joe Montanari amazes with his character accents– including a Kennedy-esque Washington official who mobilizes the army against the evil invaders– and his smooth keyboard skills.
Rounding out the effective cast are Matt Brown, R.J. Brownfield and the young but composed Wyatt Najarian.
The horrifying events they portray soon become terrifying and finally devastating. But the story’s unexpected resolution is surprisingly apt for our times, a potential silver-lining to our current threat. Watch to find out how!
In “The Hero of Halloween: Edgar Allan Poe,” LBSC cast members read four of Poe’s scary short-stories and one poem, the famously dark “The Raven.”
Artistic Director Brando Cutts starts us off with “The Cask of Amontillado,” reading with feeling between a skull and black candelabra adorned with a spider, while other cast members create creepy music and sound effects, such as a wine bottle opening as our protagonist leads his unwitting and increasingly drunk prey through a catacomb.
In its accompanying program, LBSC suggests turning on the video captions to help follow Poe’s dense writing and to compensate for the slight echo from recording in an empty theatre, which helps especially with this first tale.
“The Pit and the Pendulum” follows with an equally passionate Amy Paloma Welch trapped in a dark and unknown space swarming with squeaky rats, facing an immanent and gruesome death– unless she can somehow “MacGyver” her way out.
Alex Pait reads “The Fall of the House of Usher” clearly and calmly, recounting his unforgettable visit to the strange and decaying home of “cadaverous” old friend Roderick Usher– and the coffin of Usher’s dead sister. Accompanying sound effects of footsteps and a wild storm heighten the story’s terror.
Melanie Thompson captures the “very nervous” demeanor of the narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart” as she explains her genius in stalking an old man whose “pale blue eye” bothers her so very much– until she takes care of it. But she did not count on his beating heart…
All four actors share in reading Poe’s intricate poem “The Raven,” steeped in sadness over the lost Lenore and mysteriousness of a dark bird that only ever offers one devastating answer.
Hearing Poe’s works read aloud by these skilled actors brings them to life in a way reading silently does not. You can hear the horror dripping from Poe’s descriptions of his tormented characters, aided by the lighting and sound effects LBSC thoughtfully creates.
Our usual theatrics might be curtailed this Halloween, but you can still feel chills and thrills by plugging into one or both of LBSC’s streaming productions from the relative safety of your sofa.
One creates a tense narrative of invasion and its aftermath and the other explores the psychologically terrifying inner workings of the human heart and mind.
Together, they’ll make you say “nevermore” to ever going out again.
Tickets for “War of the Worlds” and “The Hero of Halloween: Edgar Allan Poe” are $25 each per household and can be purchased at lbshakespeare.org. Each production includes a program and can be viewed multiple times through Nov. 16.