Related Articles: Theater, All

Halloween Arts Preview

Horrifying to Hysterical

Halloween is undoubtedly my favorite holiday. This time of year is as close to a change in seasons as we get here in the Bay Area, with dead leaves crunching underfoot and weeklong downpours of rain. As nature begins her period of hibernation and the beauty of new life fades into the inevitable, we get a chance to explore the darker side of the human imagination -- finally! And of course, the arts scene furnishes us with some excellent opportunities to contemplate the macabre, the melancholy, the monstrous, and the mystical, from major productions of legendary stories to less well-known, but no less fascinating, shows and original plays.

For those that love the deep psychological explorations of man’s nature that were prevalent in 19th century horror novels, take in a showing of The Creature, Trevor Allen’s adaption of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Put on by Black Box Theatre Company, The Creature takes the monster’s point of view, offering a new look at this familiar tale.

In a similar vein is Jekyll and Hyde: The Gothic Musical. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it is an examination of the dual nature of human beings, and what happens when that duality becomes manifest in two separate entities. Adapted to musical form, the performance promises an alluring mix of divine music and hellish exploits.

Apparently music and horror somehow go hand in hand, because there are several other choices in melodically accompanied frightfests available, such as Halloween in the Castro: A Horror Opera and Zombie: A New Musical. Halloween in the Castro is a longstanding tradition in San Francisco which, in recent years, has suffered violent episodes of the human kind, thus creating enormous controversy over whether it ought to continue. Halloween in the Castro: A Horror Opera addresses many of the social and political frustrations that have arisen as a result, layering on some supernatural elements that can’t help but lead to some crazy Halloween hijinx.

Still on the horror-and-music side but striking a rather different note is Zombie: A New Musical, playing at the Exit Theater. Describing itself as “a Rock/Horror/Tragicomedy,” Zombie is a zombie love story accompanied by hard-hitting metal music and flesh-eating frenzies. Really, who could want more?

Speaking of zombies (and playing at Exit Stage Left- part of Exit Theater), Zombie Town is another production centered around our favorite face-devouring members of the undead. A documentary-style work, Zombie Town portrays the plight of small town Harwood, TX, recently invaded by a crush of putrid zombies I’m hoping are straight out of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. This work will certainly lead not only to some stiff-armed limb-dropping action (maybe even some fabulous choreography?), but also to some interesting commentary on the cathartic potential of theater.

If you want maximum spine-tingling creep factor, check out Second Wind’s production of The Woman in Black, a classic ghost story complete with deeply hidden secrets, terrible curses, and a haunted mansion. A winner of numerous awards, The Woman in Black offers viewers the quintessential Halloween experience, reminiscent of late nights around the campfire or midnight readings of Edgar Allen Poe.

Finally, if you are looking for a Halloween-night event appropriate for any age that does not necessarily include coma-inducing amounts of sugar, check out ShadowLight Theatre’s The Metamorphosis of Karaghiozis -- a story in the tradition of Greek shadow puppet theater involving comic dilemmas and outrageous escapades in the face of a terrible monster. Accompanied by live music, the show promises great fun and provides an excellent excuse for skipping part of the trick-or-treat portion of the evening.

Whether the supernatural scares you out of your mind or provides hysterical comic relief, get out this Halloween and soak up some of the spirit!

The Creature- Thick House, October 23 – November 7, 2009

Jekyll & Hyde: The Gothic Musical- Magic Theatre, October 8- October 31, 2009

Halloween in the Castro: A Horror Opera- 150 Eureka Street, SF, October 23- October 31, 2009

Zombie: A New Musical- Exit Theater, October 15- October 31, 2009

Zombie Town- Exit Stage Left, October 9- November 7, 2009

The Woman in Black- The Phoenix Theatre, October 23- November 14, 2009

The Metamorphosis of Karaghiozis- Union Square, October 31, 2009