Storytellers 2000 | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Storytellers 2000


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STORYTELLERS 2000, TinFish Theatre. The scare tactics come fast and thin in this unintentionally frightful anthology of horror tales. This year's edition, "House of Poe," is hosted by the poet himself, played as an unctuous, leering quizmaster by Jon Frazier.

Under the almost nonexistent direction of Gillian Gibson, who adapted the works with Jan Johnson, actors Jennifer Savarirayan, Nate White, and Frazier doggedly hurl themselves into 90 minutes of haunted hokum. The result is cheesy Svengoolie-style "terror," combining the wit of Wayne's World with the polish of, well, Wayne's World. Everil Worrell's "The Canal" is a boilerplate vampire love tale, all atmosphere and no chills. Another love/spook story, "For Love of Spunky," is Johnson's own offbeat tale of a dead dog whose still obedient ghost continues to play catch. (The scariest thing here is the doggie yelp "Poe" unleashes afterward.)

Still sinister, "Fall of the House of Usher" benefits from a strong sound design and the audience's imagination, but the impact is diminished by moving the action too far upstage. The silliest offering, "Scenes From The Tingler," is a tribute to film terrorist William Castle, whose macabre machinations included wiring electric-shock devices into theater seats (not done here): a deaf-mute woman dies of her inability to scream. It presents an interesting question--can the spine be shattered by unexpressed fear?--but the piece degenerates into overkill, aided by a slimy prop. A final, hokey performance of "The Raven" only reminds you just how long that poem can be.

--Lawrence Bommer

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