THE OLDEST and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,
and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
- H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror In Literature
When I think of Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft’s Weird Stories I think of very intelligent people, facing the unknown. An unknown that is not known for a reason, as if we as human beings had evolved a blindspot to these things in order to protect our sanityand allow us to keep functioning as a society – especially after the world turns out to be different than we had ever imagined it. The truly alien nature of the entities that cross the paths of the protagonists (as opposed to “heroes”, as they rarely have a resounding victory) of these stories reminds us of the fragments of dreams we might have which don’t make sense, but disturb us greatly for reasons we don’t quite understand.
RADIOTHEATRE has taken Lovecraft’s stories in this 3rd edition of their regular Lovecraft Festival, and made them more horrific by performing them as a radio play – where we are forced to believe the unbelievable because the story is being told to us aloud – instead of just letting us process the strange visions of Lovecraft only in our heads. Unlike most of Lovecraft’s stories, which are generally written in the style of a tortured lone soul chronicling his story, the tales being told are split into 3 voices (or in the case of The Horror On Martin’s Beach, a town) so there is always someone we can truly connect and sympathize with – even as the monstrous consumes them (and us) with fear.
As a radio play, the dramatic storytelling of the actors (R. Patrick Alberty, Kevin Gilligan, and Frank Zilinyi), the eerily accurate sound effects (designed by Dan Bianchi with Wes Shippee as Engineer), and moving music (by Dan Bianchi and Kevin Macleod) allowed you to just close your eyes and be swept up in the engrossing story. However with expert subtly as well as extreme lighting effects pulling us into the other-worldliness of the stories as well as the animated actors who reflect every emotion from happy and adventurous to confused or crazed to saddened or terrified, we the audience gets further drawn in. By the time the hour and fifteen minute show was done I was somewhat drained, but very touched by what the different characters had gone through.
Frank Zilinyi’s direction and adaption by Dan Bianchi are definitely to be credited: to be frightened by horror is one thing, but to be moved by it is a much greater thing, and that is what this production of The H.P. Lovecraft Festival has accomplished.
This Festival comes in two Programs of stories.
Program A includes The Moon Bog which is a story what happened when someone decided to drain a very special bog and the residents of that bog came out of obscurity to stop him, and The Shadow over Innsmouth which is a tale of an Irish town mostly inhabited by beings who are half human and half “deep one” (of the Cthulu stories).
Program B has 4 tales including: The Lurking Fear which begins with 3 men spending a night in an old isolated mansion to investigate disappearances nearby, and ends with the main character learning the horrible truth behind it all, Statement Of Randolph Carter in which a man in an insane asylum is interviewed by Randolph Carter, and his story changes Randolph forever, The Horror at Martin’s Beach where a local group of fisherman bring in a “sea monster” 50 ft long and sets up a museum around it’s corpse to gain a profit from it. Biologists investigating it determine this is a juvenile speciman of an unknown species. Later it appears it might not be alone…, and finally The Evil Clergyman where a package is sent to a man who is lead to the room of a deceased priest who was a leader of strange cult. He is warned by the landlords of the room not to touch anything, and not to stay there at night. He doesn’t listen.
In RADIOTHEATRE’s adaption, we particularly see the strength of the ensemble. Instead of a single speaker in The Lurking Fear and The Horror at Martin’s Beach it is more of a greek chorus. The camaraderie of the characters in The Lurking Fear and the diversity of personalities, makes the horror that is felt seem more human because we identify with them more than in the original story. Particularly in our hero, it makes the story sadder when he realizes the secret behind it all, the madness that caused the disappearances that set them out to investigate in the first place. Hearing them all tell the tall tales they heard from various people made it make more sense how it could have been ignored so long by the people in the surrounding areas. How the horrors of a living tree, a snake, a demon were all more acceptable answers to the human mind than the misfortune of evolution that was faced in the end in his narrow escape with the truth.
In The Horror at Martin’s Beach instead of being told in a dryer, more journalistic sense, as is the original, the cast tells us the story of the events leading up to the horror in an enjoyable dialogue among people of a small town who recount a turning point in their community. Even in describing the emptiness and desolation left in the aftermath of the story, there is still a bittersweet tone of appreciation of the beauty of the stark emptiness of the sea on a moonlit night after the horrific events of the story unfold.
The text is basically the same as the original, with slight editing by Dan Bianchi. Frank Zilinyi really shows a great deal of thought and consideration in the direction of this piece, making us feel less alienated by the otherworldly parts of these stories. The focus seemed much more on being part of community even if the characters involved tended toward isolation in the end.
H.P. Lovecraft had a unique way of seeing the world that helped pave the way for later thoughtful types of almost every other horror/speculative fiction narrator. We see his influence in works by Alfred Hitchcock and shows such as The Twilight Zone. As is the moral in many of Lovecraft’s stories, often it is knowledge that is the most damaging element, and while a horrible death may await, there is always a hint that some fates are much, much worse.
What RADIOTHEATRE has done is not so much brought back an ancient artform, but rather redefined it and made two classics better by their reinvention. If you have the chance (and the gumption), I definitely think it would be worth your while to see one or both of the nights of theatre in this festival while you can. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
~~~RadioTheatre’s 3rd installment of The H.P. Lovecraft Festival Presented by Horse Trade Theater Group .
The Kraine Theater 85 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery
April 19-June 24, 2012
Program A THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH, THE MOON BOG APRIL 19, 21,22 27 MAY 3, 5, 13 (Thur-Sat 8pm, Sun 3pm)
Program B THE LURKING FEAR, THE STATEMENT OF RANDOLPH CARTER , THE HORROR AT MARTINS BEACH, THE EVIL CLERGYMAN APRIL 20, 26, 28, 29 MAY 4, 6, 20 (Thur-Sat 8pm, Sun 3pm)
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