Tuesday November 21st 2017

“The Man Beast” reviewed by Carol Moore

Highly Recommended **** Every autumn, First Folio Theatre celebrates October with a scary and/or macabre drama.  This year, they’re kicking off their season with the premiere of “The Man Beast”, Joseph Zettelmaier’s third exploration of the horror genre.  “The Man Beast”, a moody gothic tribute to the Loup-Garou, follows Zettelmaier’s unique spin on the Dracula legend, “Dr. Seward’s Dracula” and his bizarre angle on the Frankenstein legend, “The Gravedigger”.  “The Man Beast is fascinating, romantic and very scary.  4 Spotlights

First Folio has a built-in advantage in the horror department, because some people think their venue, the Mayslake Peabody Estate, might be haunted.  The manor house, built in Tudor Revival style, is certainly dark and forbidding enough for any gothic novel.  The stage is in the former chapel which features a vaulted ceiling and enclosed confessional booths, while the rest of the house has tall narrow windows, dark wood paneling, walk-in fireplaces and a secret staircase.  Even though it was built in the 1920’s, you can almost see Elizabethan ladies and gentlemen walking through the library.

Angela Weber Miller’s set looks exactly the way I might have imagined the interior of a witch’s isolated shack in the woods to look, with just that much more.  There’s the expected – a concoction boiling in a kettle hanging in the open fireplace, shelves loaded with pots and vials full of mysterious substances, bundles of dried herbs hanging from open beams; and the unexpected – animal pelts and carefully stuffed wild animals and birds sitting about.

As the lights come up, there’s a tremendous banging on the door, and suddenly a bleeding man bursts in the door, looking for help.  A short time later, a woman comes in, sees the man and pulls out a big knife.  She recognizes him as a hermit who lives in the wood, so she stitches him up.  When he asks why, she tells him that “Outcasts must care for outcasts.”

Eventually they introduce themselves.  She’s Virginie Allard (Elizabeth Laidlaw), a well-known witch; he’s Jean Chastal (Aaron Christensen), a hunter.  Virginie has been alone since her husband died, but she has her work.  He is hunting for the Loup Garou so he can claim the reward being offered by the king.  She is a woman who knows what she knows.  In fact, she frequently says “I know a thing about a thing.’

They circle each other, dueling with words, each trying to top the other.  Their word games fuel their lust, until they end up on the table, indulging in a more primitive battle of the sexes.

On a hunting trip, Jean finds an animal (a hyena) from Africa in a menagerie.  It has a mouthful of huge teeth and a misshapen body so he kills it and brings it to Virginie.  He’s sure that if he takes the body to the king, he will get the reward.  After he offers to split the money, Virginie agrees to preserve and stuff the body.

Jean does go off to see the king, but Virginie is furious because he got all the glory, she did all the work.  Needless to say, things go terribly awry!

“The Man Beast” runs through November 5th at First Folio Theatre at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st Street (31st & Rt. 83), Oakbrook.  Parking is free.

Running time is 1 hour, 50 minutes, with an intermission.

Performances are:

Wednesdays at 8:00 pm

Thursdays at 3:00 pm

Fridays at 8:00 pm

Saturdays at 4:00 and 8:00 pm

Sundays at 3:00 pm.

Tickets range from $29-$44.  FYI (630) 986-8067 or www.firstfolio.org.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Man Beast”

 

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