From Beyond | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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From Beyond, Transient Theatre.

I thought I'd seen it all onstage. I've seen people take their clothes off, have sex, shoot up drugs, torture and kill one another, go to the bathroom--and now, thanks to this Grand Guignol exercise, I've seen someone undergo radical brain surgery. With a local anesthetic yet! The operation is performed by mad scientist Ambrose (James Terry) on his brother Charles (Gary Simmers) in order to stimulate Charles's pineal gland and awaken his "third eye"; this allows him to see an invisible dimension of ancient monsters--and to herald their invasion of our world.

The bloody brain cutting generates a visceral horror absent from the rest of this sporadically interesting effort. Following in the tradition of Roger Corman's Poe movies, playwrights Brendan Baber, James Pelton, and Jonathan Taylor and director Scot Casey have borrowed the title and premise of an H.P. Lovecraft tale as merely the starting point for their own invention. Lovecraft's short story, about a scientist driven mad by the alternate world he opens up, is bolstered by the author's masterfully macabre imagery; the play jettisons the rich writing while wallowing in absurd arcana about the cult of Cthulhu taken from other, sillier Lovecraft texts. The play is also undercut by its contrived coincidences, its tacky representation of the "beyond" (Dani Nichols in dance tights and a platinum-blond wig), and its unsympathetic endangered heroine (Alexa Wolkoff in a gratingly mannered, eyebrow-arching performance). The show's chief asset is Jay Stoutenborough's wonderfully detailed set, a hurricane-wrecked veranda strewed with wilted vines and broken floor tiles--the perfect setting for the atmospheric terror From Beyond fails to provide.

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