Now entering its tenth straight year, Unbound Productions‘ Wicked Lit has established a must-see reputation for its unique blend of horror, humor, and pathos, and the experience appeals to traditional theatergoers and haunt-lovers alike. Existing fans will be happy to know that this year’s production lives up to the reputation. Unbound Productions has also done a bit of tweaking to their usual format this year. And the results are positive.
Most notable of the changes is the show’s runtime, which is significantly shorter than previous years, clocking in at a satisfying 75 minutes start to finish. The pre-show segment has also been streamlined, with “Mountain View Museum” curators setting the tone for the evening with a tongue-in-cheek history of the museum and its “artifacts.” These characters act as hosts throughout the evening, providing an introduction to each play and leading audiences from one scene to the next. It’s also worth mentioning that audience members who may have been uncomfortable braving chilly weather in previous years will be pleased that this year’s show takes place entirely indoors (although, rest assured, there are still plenty of chilling moments throughout the evening!).
The first play of the night is Chimes: A Goblin Story, adapted from the novella by Charles Dickens, written by Jonathan Josephson, and directed by Darin Anthony. Chimes is a tale of second chances, and the value in following one’s heart as well as one’s head. We follow the story of Toby Veck, a poor and angry middle-aged father struggling to come to terms with his lot in life, and whether his fate, and the fate of his loved ones, is inevitable. The play as a whole is superbly acted, and expertly subtle technical elements add a wonderfully eerie, dreamlike atmosphere to the piece.
After a brief interlude with our curator-hosts, we’re treated to Teig O’Kane and the Corpse, adapted from the story by Ernest Rhys, translated by Dr. Douglas Hyde, written by Kerry Kazmierowicztrimm, and directed by Paul Millet. Wicked Lit excels at skillfully peppering its tales of horror with just enough humor to keep the evening interesting to a broad audience. Suspense and dread abound, certainly. But this story of love, loss, and (sometimes literal) letting go benefits from the interjection of a bit of morbid physical comedy to highlight overall somber themes. Design elements are all topnotch and provide many spooky surprises, including a particularly effective use of theatrical fog to enhance the transition from one playing space to another.
Wicked Lit may not be the most terrifying event of the season. But for audiences craving a good, old-fashioned ghost story, skillfully played in a uniquely chilling setting, Wicked Lit is a must-see.