Something Wicked This Way Comes
For kids used to Buffy and The X-Files, not to mention Jason and Freddy, Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes just isn't all that scary. It's actually a sweet, old-fashioned sort of story where the forces of Good figure out how to outwit the forces of Evil, and learn a little something about themselves along the way. And, if it happens to make you jump out of your seat, well, that's a little added bonus.
Every element you expect in a standard tale of this type is in place and ready to go: the slightly creepy old man who warns our two young protagonists of the trouble headed their way (Cris Capen, who does a nice job painting pictures of unnamed evil); the travelling carnival offering tantalizing peeks at all sorts of grotesqueries (John Edw. Bankenchip's set covers the simple black and white of the town with broad strokes of red); the imposing yet inviting proprietor of the travelling carnival (Mark Aaron, whose impossibly tall and thin frame makes him look just perfect for the part); the carnival performers themselves, who evoke mysticism and spookiness with all they do; and the townspeople, who react with suitable amounts of disbelief and (when necessary) terror.
And at the center of it all is Halloway - a man who feels the full weight of his age and the weight of his son's dismissal of him as an old man - who suddenly finds himself the only man who can stand against the evil of the carnival. Jay Gerber gives a standout performance as Halloway, clearly conveying his fear that better days are behind him and, ultimately, his strength and the source from which it flows. At the top of the second act, Gerber has a beautiful scene where Halloway answers his son's questions about the nature of goodness. It's a delicate little piece of acting that serves as a break from the fast pace of the evil tricks of the carnival and is a moment sadly brought to an end too soon.
It's a little frustrating that what bogs this production down is something as simple as these performances, given that it successfully solves so many other potential problems that could be deadly for an adaptation of Something Wicked. For example, the carnival's carousel, which is so pivotal to the show's plot, is perfectly created by actors playing the carousel horses, circling mirrored panels. Special effects which could easily be trouble are also pulled off adequately (although the show would be wise to not bring the mummy to full light in the second act). Even the performances of the carnival folk and townspeople - which could so quickly destroy the show if they aren't credible - are working here. But when three of the four principals fail to really connect, the show can't come together like it should.
Something Wicked This Way Comes plays through November 8 Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 3:00 p.m., at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica. (800) 595-4849 or www.tix.com.
Ray Bradbury's Pandemonium Theatre Company presents at the Edgemar Center for the Arts at Edgemar, Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Directed by Alan Neal Hubbs. Produced by Ray Bradbury, Thomas Petitpas and Mindy Brandt. Set Design by John Edw. Blankenchip; Lighting Design by Chuck Wilcox; Sound Design/Special Effects by Phil Flad; Costume Design by Nadine D. Parkos & Gelareh Khalioun; Original Music by David Gunn; Choreographer Don Bondi; Carnival Art by Scott Atkinson; Graphic Design by Doug Haverty; Publicist Philip Sokoloff; Assistant to the Director Tammy Hart; Editors Pandemonium Press Arnold & Marlene Kunert; Original Program Art by Joseph Mugnaini.
Photo by Dennis J. Kent