Chicago Theatre Review
Nothing to Fear
Scary Tales 2015 – Clock Productions
A 75-minute evening consisting of seven short stories, linked together by a title that indicates there will be shivers and chills galore, is a problem when there’s nothing about the show that’s frightening. None of the pieces, which vary in length from only a few minutes to a couple very wordy tales that go on far too long, would ever scare anyone. The stories, written and adapted by David Denman (who also co-directs the show with assistance from Amber Mandley), is a disappointment, from start to finish.
In addition to not living up to its title, the collection of yarns range from an unsatisfying riff on the “escaped lunatic” urban legend to a cautionary tale about a machine that condenses time, while protecting a man from the perils of a nuclear holocaust. There’s a short story that features two Victorian schoolgirls discussing monsters, a fable taken from Clark Ashton Smith’s short story (credited in the program as “Astin Clark Smith”) about a money-grubbing money lender in a fictional kingdom who meets his fate at the hands of creature (that might play better fleshed out as a children’s play) and an overly-long playlet about a soldier being treated for shell shock in a mental ward.
The most interesting tale is “Rage Blossom’s,” in which a silly young man brings his sweetheart a box of candy and a pilfered bouquet of unusual flowers. While George’s pontificating about love, Alice grows intoxicated by the flowers’ fragrance, causing a distinct and very funny change in her personality. When out of range of the poisonous posies, Alice reverts back to her sweet self, but when influenced by the blossoms‘ balm Alice becomes a psychotic maniac. The ending is predictable but the journey is the most enjoyable of the evening’s offerings.
Rather than presenting a show that tries to be scary, if the director/playwright had taken some of these bizarre characters and situations (and perhaps even chosen other stories that would’ve better lent themselves to dramatization without using narrators) and played everything for comedy, the show might’ve had more unity and entertained the audience. As a satire of the horror genre, the strangely-fitting costumes, the upside-down placards, the lackluster props, such as a monster that’s little more than a large paper mask on a stick, would’ve been humorous instead of embarrassing.
However, Denman’s work is uneven, to say the least. With poorly adapted or written material, uninspired direction featuring little creativity and performed by a cast whose theatrical talents are negligible, this production is sadly unimpressive. Because of various dreadfully rendered accents and actors who either shamelessly mug and scream their lines or listlessly mumble and stumble through their roles, this disappointing show gives the term “amateur” a bad name. The only scary element in this production is the $15 ticket price.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented January 15-February 8 by Clock Productions at Profiles Theatre, the Alley Stage, 4147 N. Broadway, Chicago.
Tickets are available by going to www.brownpapertickets.com/event/909822.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.