The horror! The horror!

Lovecraft: Nightmare Suite

Text by H.P. Lovecraft
Conceived and directed by Dan Spurgeon
Cobblestone Productions
Common Basis Theatre
750 8th Avenue at 46th St. (212/414-5420)
Equity showcase (closes March 30)
Review by Jenny Sandman

"Fear is our deepest and strongest emotion," said H.P. Lovecraft, one of the first writers of horror fiction. Acknowledged by many to be one of the masters of the genre, he wrote for pulp magazines in the '20s and '30s, and is best-known for the "Cthulhu Mythos." Stephen King and Clive Barker cite Lovecraft as a major influence on their work, and Lovecraft’s stories have been made into many movies, including Dagon, Re-Animator, and The Resurrected. But he has never been adapted to the stage, until now.

Cobblestone Productions has taken a number of Lovecraft stories and turned them into an evening of theatre. The chosen stories are some of Lovecraft’s best and most famous, including "The Cats of Ulthar," "Nyarlathotep," and "The Statement of Randolph Carter." Many of the stories are told almost in their entirety; some, like "The Statement of Randolph Carter," have been so cut down as to be rendered almost meaningless. Bits of poems break up the stories, although the poetic interludes don’t add anything to the production.

Unfortunately, the production didn’t do justice to the writing; but then, Lovecraft is notoriously difficult to adapt, even for the big screen. While possessed of a fine imagination, Lovecraft was at times an overblown writer, redundant and verbose. In his world, rain is "of a chilling copiousness," a hallway is "redolent of unhallowed age," and horror is "unutterable" or "stupefying" or "repellent." The cast (Robert Beiderman, Salvatore Brienik, Anna Bullard, Nicholas M. Buonagurio, John D’Arcangelo, Foye Dashiell, Jason Hewitt, Lanie Morita, Benjamin Pendroff, and Harmony Vanlue Tanguay) took turns reading and acting out the stories. The company did a decent job of reading, especially considering the bombastic language. Foye Dashiell ("The Cats of Ulthar"), Anna Bullard ("Cool Air"), and Nicholas M. Buonagurio ("Epilogue") were the best of the bunch, telling their tales with an intensity not matched by the others.

But the production as a whole was overwrought and more Goth than gothic (with lighting by Krista Martocci, sound by Javier Barzel, sets by Dan Spurgeon, and costumes by Foye Dashiell and Loraine C. Shepard). Horror need not be represented with Elvira wigs and thick black eye makeup, but that is how it was represented here. The black stage was covered in red drapes and chalk hieroglyphs, while creepy music played in the background. Everyone was dressed in black rags. It looked like a B-grade slasher film without the blood or camp. All they needed was a fog machine and a woman screaming in the distance. It didn’t adequately convey Lovecraft’s ingenious imagery or imagination, and didn’t do justice to the true terror of his stories.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 David Mackler