It is difficult to figure out what exactly the purpose of David Denman’s “Scary Tales” was. Not a single one was scary: one or two managed to be disturbing but never in a satisfying way. The night began with a man dressed as an Easter Bunny trying to seduce two children (played by grown up actors) with candy. There was also a bizarre tale about a greedy money-lender who ends up sinking in Jewels (I wonder what the moral of that parable could be), A story about Time Travel called “Under the Dome” that is so underwritten that seemed as if the playwright had decided the “Wishbone” version of H.G. Wells novel “The Time Machine” made with a dog for children’s television would be too difficult for the audiences to follow, and the plot had to be simplified and made into a new heavier-handed, lesson in the wake of Einstein’s discovery of the Theory-of-General-Relativity; a very weird story about shell-shock that seemed like it was struggling to be a feminist critique of mental healthcare of male veterans in the first part of the last century (again, this was more ably done by Virginia Woolf in “Mrs. Dalloway”, and the only reason in sticks in the memory is that it was the longest with the most coherent narrative.) Overall, not a single story was original, and not a single story frightened or satisfied anyone, or dealt with issues in a more sophisticated or interesting way than its often uncredited source material.
Not only was the material underwritten, but the direction (also David Denham and Amber Mandley) of the actors was terrible. They frequently muddled lines, and spoke in dialects they couldn’t imitate, but which nonetheless, the audience could barely understand. I could have sworn the German soldier was speaking with a French accent, and the French woman mothering an ugly orphan that she eventually sent to the Circus so that he would be happy sounded like she might be Polish. It was as though a bad script was producing bad acting, and execution with only occasional exceptions: Andrew Bruel could be pretty fascinating in spite of everything, and I found myself watching him act even when he was just an extra in the stories. Clearly, for the most part, the actors didn’t get the direction, dialect coach, script, or time to prepare that was needed for them to mount a successful production, and their work, and the audience suffered the consequences.
“Scary Tales” is being produced by Clock Productions at The Alley Stage located at 4147 N. Broadway, and is running through February 8, 2015 with performances Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8:00, and Sunday’s at 3:00. Tickets are 15 dollars and can obtained at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/909822
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Scary Tales”.
Side note from Al Bresloff. This is probably the shortest review ever written on this site, but after reading what Lawrence had to say, I can understand him just wanting to let us know what his experience was.