Tuesday May 23rd 2017

“The Book of Spectres” reviewed by Michael Horn

BOS_poster_400Highly Recommended ***Halloween is just a few weeks away, but if you want to “prime your pump” with chills, ghosts, spooks, and eerie tales, head on over to the Grey Ghost Theatre at the Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W Chicago Avenue, and see “The Book of Spectres”.  This is a very interesting and unique production which is based on a collection of ghost stories written by Johann August Abel in 1811. It was these stories that inspired the creation of the classic tale of “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley.


“The Book of Spectres” re-imagines the summer of 1816 on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, where Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and two of their friends spent their holiday.  1816 is recorded as “the year without a summer” due to the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia in 1815, which spewed 12 cubic miles of ash into the atmosphere; darkening the sky for months, causing cold temperatures and incessant rain.  It was these conditions that the companions encountered, forcing them to stay inside the spooky villa with little to do. They discover a book, a collection of ghost stories, and entertain themselves by reading different tales.    A mysterious woman appears in the stormy night which launches a series of unexplainable events that blurs the boundary between the writer’s reality and the supernatural tales.


Ranging from traditional haunted house stories, to medieval mysteries, to madcap fairy tales, the inventively staged stories are simultaneously charming and bone-chilling, delightful and disturbing. “The Book of Spectres” is an ambitious project, but Evan Chung’s translation and adaptation provide a solid base from which to launch the production.  Director Amber Robinson effectively manages each scene, maintaining an atmosphere of suspense.  She balances the stories within the story, keeping the audience engaged.    The talented cast of Andrew Bailes, Hilary Holbrook, Aaron Lawson, Tim Parker, Maggie McCally, and Alexis Randolph bring each character to life; sometimes with humor, sometimes seriously, but always with a sense of the unknown.  They work well together and easily move from role to role.  The set (Lauren Nigri), costumes (Piper Hubbell Robinson), sound (Michael Huey), and lighting (John Weygandt) all strongly support the production.


I really appreciated “the Book of Spectres” because it works on many levels.  It transported me back to a time that I remember as a youth, reading Mary Shelley, reading Lord Byron, and reading scary stories about Transylvania.   The show gives us insight into an historical event that gives birth to a classic novel, it provides us the fantasy of the folktale, and it chills our body and minds with the fear of the supernatural.  It provides some comic relief as well with the tragicomedy of the Peacock King which is very well done!   I felt the first act was a bit too long but the second act was well paced.   The ending is a surprise, but in keeping with the ominous nature of the show.  “The Book of Spectres” is unique, creepy, suspenseful, and entertaining; definitely worth a look.


Dates:                   “The Book of Spectres” runs from September 28 – October 20, 2013

Thursdays – Saturdays, 7:30PM

Sundays, 2:00PM


Location:             Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622      book-of-spectres-6624

Plenty of street parking on May, Aberdeen, Ogden, Chicago

Blue Line stop at Chicago and Milwaukee

Tickets:                $20

Box Office:         1105 W Chicago Avenue, or online at www.greyghosttheatre.org

The Grey Ghost Theatre is a new storefront theatre company in Chicago, dedicated to productions of contemporary plays, original works, and new adaptations of classic texts.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Book of Spectres”

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