Shakespeare's Haunted House
by Nancy Rosati
It's almost Halloween in New York, which means it's time for William Shakespeare's Haunted House. Now in its sixth consecutive year, The Faux-Real Theatre Company has found a new location for its interactive theatrical event: Chashama on West 42nd Street, not far from Times Square. Previous renditions have taken place at Belvedere Castle in Central Park and on board the tall-ship Peking at the South Street Seaport.
Created and directed by Mark Greenfield, the show features 21 actors who portray the Ghost of William Shakespeare and his most famous tragic characters. It's billed as an "interactive" event, which is certainly truthful advertising, because the actors are frequently standing around the crowd or mingling with the audience. The action begins outside the theater when Marc Antony appears in an open window and invites crowd members to put their hands into the open wounds of Julius Caesar's rotting corpse. Fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream interrupt him periodically by rushing toward the crowd, only to be held back by the chains connecting them to each other.
After the pre-show, patrons are escorted inside to "William Shakespeare's Wax Museum" where all the figures are live. Characters such as Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet appear on an upper level, simultaneously bringing their most famous tragic moments to life. Caliban, fairies and witches work the crowd, sometimes offering candy to children, but more often reciting lines and generally adding to the cacophony of sound. All dialogue is taken directly from Shakespeare's plays, with characters frequently speaking at the same time. The goal isn't to follow every word, but to get the full experience of the event.
Shakespeare's Ghost appears and introduces his characters in song. He has scripted horrible fates for most of them, but as the evening progresses, it becomes obvious that they have other ideas in mind.
Audience members are frequently escorted to another level for new "scenes," so patrons who have trouble negotiating stairs may wish to think twice about attending. Of course, any haunted house worth its salt will have moments of complete darkness, and this show is no exception. Blackouts are just long enough to provide that "Halloween atmosphere" but should be taken into account for anyone claustrophobic or afraid of the dark.
This is a high-energy production that challenges your senses with music, flashing lights, gory props, eerie sound effects and in-your-face cast members just the thing to put you in the "Halloween spirit."
William Shakespeare's Haunted House
Thru Nov 3, 2002
For more information about Faux-Real Theatre Company, visit www.fauxreal.org.
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