Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Phantasmagoria: Hell Hath Risen

Phantasmagoria began with two wayward travelers, the Brothers Grimm, in the woods searching for a band of storytellers. Projections throughout the show offered a macabre sense of place. The Mandell Theater in the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center, had it's seating was arranged in the round, with bleachers on three sides. With a flash the cast began to appear. The Phantasmagoria cast had been telling their tales for centuries. The brothers had written down some of the tales but watered them down a bit so as not to terrify children. The brothers were despised for this treachery, for these stories, when told right, spring fully to life as horrifying as that might be. Children in these tales are the murderous ones as seen in Grimm story “How the Children Played at Slaughtering.” The entire crew of well over a dozen players kept the energy high.

Poe, Dickens, and other literary masters
Poe, Dickens, and other literary masters
Stories are told at times in unison by members of the cast. The atmosphere was perpetually dark and sinister. My book light died half way through the show. I've seen enough "Ghost Hunters" to know that spirits will drain a battery in order to manipulate objects in the material world. I was left to guess at colors and values. Stories included  “Myth of Pandora”,  Edgar Allen Poe's “The Cask Of Amontillado”  and Charles Dickens “A Mad Man’s Manuscript” which did not star Don Draper. The stories remain true to the originals written at the turn of the century. There were skull lined catacombs and murderous husbands. Dead loved ones returned as skeletal remains. Blades were brandished. The cast lived these stories and once a story was started it had to be finished much like a game of Jumanji.

The silks were used between stories by Dion Smith and Mila Makarova while Gina Makarova worked her ring routine. Skeletons danced in a mysterious blue glow among silks but the final battle against a huge dragon puppet that took three puppeteers to operate was a climactic moment not to be missed. Few survived. John explained that the Halloween day performance would continue the last story resolving the cliff hanger ending. I look forward to seeing this show each year and this is definitely the best production so far. This is an October tradition that will chill your bones for the horrors to come. John DiDonna, the director, debated about weather he should have the cast come out for a bow. The ending is so shocking that it might make sense for the audience to leave in devastated silence. I however hope they allow for the chance to break the spell with thunderous applause.

Oct 11th – 31st 2013
Fri, Sat, Sun @ 8:30pm
Special shows Monday Oct 21st and 28th and Halloween show on the 31st! All shows at 8:30pm
(Halloween show includes a very special epilogue not seen on other nights!)
All evening performances at 8:30pm (Box opens at 7:50pm/Doors at 8:10pm)
Mandell Theatre, John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center
Loch Haven Park, Orlando, FL
General Admission $20.00 / Student and Senior $15.00
Reserve (for will call cash at door) 407-328-9005
Credit card orders
Parking available in lots directly in Loch Haven, or in Science Center Parking Garage off of Princeton (Next to Mennello Museum of Art)

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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