Dreadful Penny's Midnight Cavalcade of Ghoulish Delights, Tantalus Theatre Group, at Breadline Theatre Laboratory. Certain things about this production just aren't quite right. It's a "midnight" cavalcade that starts at 10:30, a Halloween frightfest that opened nearly a week after Halloween. Most important, it's a potential cult show that misses its best chance to generate a cult.
Obviously, the crucial test of a cult show is its ability to create a participatory atmosphere. DPMCGD starts building one even before we've paid admission. Would-be audience members have to sign a three-page waiver of liability, absolving the company should we find ourselves suffering from lycanthropy (clause three) or satanic possession (clause five) as a result of viewing the show. We're also asked to write our deepest, darkest fantasy on a three-by-five card. Once we're inside, there's a preshow during which the cast attempts simultaneously to talk us up and weird us out. Finally we meet Dreadful Penny herself, who continues the interaction as our (far too talkative) emcee.
These efforts are almost entirely wasted, however, because three of the four short plays that form the meat of DPMCGD offer nothing more than horror-story boilerplate, guaranteed not only to exclude the audience but to bore it. Only during the fourth segment, when the three-by-five fantasies come minimally and rather cheaply into play, does something a little unsettling begin to happen. The Tantalus folks had a great idea when they thought of reprocessing our fantasies as nightmares. Now they should use it.