The Perilous Party Food, DJ, drinks & auction
the show's run...
23, 8pm: The Unfortunate and
Untimely Opening Gala
Show, party, food &
September 30, 8pm:
The Querulous and Quizzical Q&A Show followed by a
question-and-answer session with
the cast & crew. Finger food & wine will be
will take place at approximately 10pm;
you are invited to attend this post-show event free of charge.
October 29, 8pm:
The Calamitous and
Curious Costume Gala Show, party, food,
best costume prize; tickets $40
October 31, 8pm:
The Harrowing and Horrific
Halloween Night Party Show, party, food,
best costume prize; tickets
November 13, 7pm:
The Contested & Clandestine Closing Night
Party Show, party afterwards
w/food & drink;
Glasses and Saw
McCormack - v/o, "The Gashleycrumb Tinies"
additional music & musical direction by Graham Jackson
assistant direction & choreography by Jessie Marion
production design by Michael Franco
set design & art direction by Joel Daavid
costume design & masks by Ann Closs-Farley
lighting design by Cricket Sloat
sound design by William Levine
graphic design by Walter D Morris
associate producer - Tina Gloss-Finnell
photography by Peter McCabe
publicity by Phil Sokoloff
Pat Towne and Ryan Templeton interviewed
by Julio Martinez for "Arts in Review" on KPFK 90.7
Tales," [sic] a deliciously macabre assortment of
tales, songs and limericks from the gothic outpourings of
writer-illustrator Edward Gorey, cleverly compiled by scripter
Stephen Currens, is given a sumptuous staging by helmer Pat
Towne and Sacred Fools' nine-thesp ensemble. Gorey's
jaundiced, neo-Victorian vision of sinister adults, persecuted
waifs and malevolent creatures is abetted by the thematically
perfect production design (Michael Franco), sets (Joel Daavid),
costumes/masks (Ann Closs-Farley) and lights (Cricket Sloat),
all in his trademark B&W and shades of gray.
Towne's use of the story theater technique -- having characters narrate themselves into and out of the action -- is ideal for Gorey's spare, ghoulish sketches and morbid, elegantly mirthful prose. A prominent theme in many of the tales is the victimization of the helpless, particularly children, chronicled with Gorey's customary dispassionate whimsy.
"The Wuggly Ump" nonchalantly relates the activities of a dragon-like monster that devours little kids. In the same vein, "The Insect God" follows the abduction of a pretty girl (Ryan Templeton) from a park. Her subsequent misadventure concludes with her being fed to a giant bug.
Another well-worked Gorey theme is sexual depravity. "The Curious Sofa" is highlighted by an impressive display of ensemble teamwork as a simplistic but lusty young lady (Lola Ward) is relentlessly but imaginatively violated by a whole series of aristocratic debauchers.
One of the more bottom-feeding vignettes focuses on "The Loathsome Couple" (Joe Jordan, Templeton) whose sexual dysfunction as a couple eventually leads them to become jaded serial killers.
Throughout all these depictions of mayhem and decadence, the ensemble never loses touch with the sardonic wit embedded in all Gorey's tales. A particular charmer is "The Willowdale Handcar," following the odyssey of three Victorian children (Towne, Joe Fria, Ward) as they abscond with a railroad handcar and gleefully comment on all the human tribulation they witness during their travels.
In a change of pace, the ensemble also scores with Gorey's "The Gilded Bat," a melancholy chronicle of one fan's (Towne) disastrous obsession with a self-absorbed opera diva (Ward).
The most complex vignette is "The Unstrung Harp," focusing on the efforts of senile author C.F. Earbrass (Henry
Rittman [sic]) to finish his novel, hindered by the uncooperative shenanigans of the characters who decide to wage war with their creator. Particularly captivating is Paul Plaunkett's
[sic] perf as the novel's protagonist, the spiritually burdened Little Henry.
An offstage instrumental quartet performs as an added member of the ensemble. Douglas Lee's virtuosity on the musical saw and tuned wine glasses evokes the haunting eeriness of an electronic Theremin.
creatures slithering through spooky houses, opera singers
poisoned with aspic, ghoulish libertines pawing through
encyclopedias of unimaginable customs, children sacrificed to
insect gods and, of course, an abundance of burial urns. Happy
Halloween, and welcome to "Gorey Stories," an
anthology of morbid tales, songs and limericks from the
deliciously unwholesome gray-hued universe of the late master
illustrator-author Edward Gorey, adapted for the stage in 1978
by Stephen Currens
Gorey's art is best known from the opening animation still
used on PBS' "Mystery!" series. This spirited
revival at Sacred Fools Theatre brings Gorey's distinctively
styled brand of neo-Victorian Goth to — for want of a better
term — life, with superb atmospheric staging and unfailingly
The highly athletic ensemble, suitably attired in Ann
Cross-Farley's cadaverous makeup and costumes, comprises an
imperious hostess (Kelley Hazen), a befuddled novelist (Henry
Dittman), a gaunt spinster (Jenifer Hamel), a singer with
pitch-perfect screams (Lola Ward), her stalking fan (Pat
Towne, who also directs), a mischievous maid (Ryan Templeton),
a disturbed child (grown-up Paul Plunkett), a malevolent young
man (Joe Fria) and a towering butler (Joe Jordan) who cedes
little ground to Lurch of "Addams Family" fame.
There's an Addams clan-like camaraderie among these core
characters as they gleefully enact the series of vignettes
that make up the evening. Where Charles Addams always played
his creations against recognizably everyday experience,
however, Gorey remains in a much weirder world all his own.
That world is impressively realized in Joel Daavid's
black-and-white decrepit-mansion set, bathed in Cricket
Sloat's sickly lighting. Composer and music director Graham
Jackson provides haunting original music with a four-piece
band of keyboards, violin and acoustic bass, with eerie
effects from water-filled glasses and saw.
The individual segments are all fun and refreshingly free of
any redeeming value. Yet Gorey on stage is as fragmented and
elliptical an experience as we encounter in his cartoons,
stories and poems. The one constant is that macabre death and
random violence inevitably triumph over rationality and
continuity. With such a one-note message, a little goes a long
way. In aggregate, the repetitive material and tone require
— and thankfully receive — resuscitation through
considerable staging ingenuity.
Stephen Currens’ 1978 adaptation of Edward Gorey tales contains a ghastly murder as well as a generous dose of mirth in just about every vignette. Director Pat Towne astutely melds story, ensemble and design elements in black, gray and white — from Joel Daavid’s spooky house set to Ann Closs-Farley’s inventive masks and Victorian costumes (such as Joe Fria’s bird costume in “The Osbick Bird”) to the formidable cast’s ghoulish makeup. Act 1 is a motley collection of stories: “The Curious Sofa” tells a lascivious tale of sexual depravity; the epic “The Gilded Bat” paints a melancholy portrait of a fan’s (Towne) obsession with an opera singer (Lola Ward). In “The Willowdale Handcar,” a romp on a railroad handcar by some precocious children (Towne, Fria and Ward) takes a dastardly turn. In Act 2, we meet the renowned — and slightly senile — author C.F. Earbrass (Henry Dittman), whose characters from his latest novel come to life and engage him in a hilarious battle of wits. Musical director Graham Jackson keeps things appropriately chilling with a live ensemble and David Aldrich’s original score.
Edward Gorey, just five years dead,
Had the most dreadful thoughts in his head.
From child murders to violence graphic,
And an odd sofa with uses pornographic.
Although American, he seemed a Brit
With his drawings and rhymes and mordant wit.
His spidery creatures about to meet doom
Dwell in pen and ink drawings of Edwardian rooms.
How fit for Halloween to put on a show
With some Gorey tales of diabolical woe!
The clever set makes a ghastly place for a haunt,
And the makeup and costumes make Gorey’s tableux vivant.
The band’s piano has tacks in each hammer to ping.
Strange sounds emanate from the saw-violin thing.
The actors show just the right murderous ennui;
These are Addams family cousins from a bent family tree.
So hurry and see this most fantastic event.
You can give up your Gorey next spring when it’s Lent.
It’s a Halloween spectacle grownups can savor,
With laughs and scares at people’s awful behavior.
There’s something to be said about a play where every cast member is killed at least three times. The latest production of Gorey Stories, arriving in time for the Halloween season, promises that and then some at the Sacred Fools Theater. It’s morbid. It has a freakishly creepy script. It’s pure fun.
Adapted for the stage by Stephen Currens and based on the works of illustrator Edward
Gorey, Gorey Stories brings to life a collection of stories and songs for the morbidly twisted. There are accidents, murders, and many inventive ways to achieve death.
Among the tales showcased in Act One is the Elementary Primer of death, ‘The Gashleycrumb Tinies’, in which the ABCs are taught in a no holds barred grisly manner. ‘The Willowdale Handcar’ sends three chums on a rail ride of no return. ‘The Blue Aspic’ tells the story of an opera singer and the obsessive fan who stalks her. Act Two delights with ‘The Unstrung Harp’, a story within a story where a fading author’s attempt to complete a story is distracted by thoughts of characters from totally different storylines.
Directed by Pat Towne, Gorey Stories shines with a talented ensemble cast. Henry
Dittman, Joe Fria, Jennifer Hamel, Kelley Hazen, Joe Jordan, Paul Plunkett, Ryan Templeton, Pat Towne, and Lola Ward put in solid performances. With so many doomed and twisted characters on the stage, the actors happily sink their teeth and other assorted objects into their roles.
The band on the sidelines, consisting of Kat Edwards, Douglas Lee, Graham Jackson, and Gary
Viggers, compliment the actors extremely well. The music by David Aldrich isn’t stand out memorable however it succeeds in adding an eerily vibe and remains faithful to Gorey’s words. There were just a few instances where the singing lyrics became hard to comprehend in the ensemble numbers. No doubt continued performances will vanquish that irregularity.
The set design by Joel Daavid is top notch and any Masterpiece Theater fan would smile with appreciation.
Be warned, this show is not for simple minded children or the weak heart. That being said, Gorey Stories is a wickedly entertaining must see.
It's the end of October and it's time for gore. If you haven't made your Halloween plans yet, look no further -
Gorey Stories, the creepy musical based on the works of macabre illustrator
Gorey, has been extended at the Sacred Fools Ensemble through Nov. 13.
A is for Amy who fell down the stairs
B is for Basil assaulted by bears
C is for Clara who wasted away
D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh...
These calmly malevolent lines from Gorey's The Gashlycrumb
Tinies, an alphabet book of dying children, are some of his best-known work, and they open
Gorey Stories. The fast-paced musical incorporates vignettes from all of Gorey's oeuvre, from sexual sofas to rhyming monsters, from beasts to bestial, from maudlin to malevolent, from Rose Marshmary to the Osbick Bird and Little Charlotte Sophia. A troupe of whitefaced dancers takes up one story after another, and are reborn as new characters just as soon as they die.
Gorey Stories was had a successful run off-Broadway in the late 70s, but its move to the Booth Theatre on Broadway in 1978 was a disaster. This faithful adaptation of Gorey's work (by Stephen Currens, with music by David Aldrich) needs, in our opinion, an irreverent, off-kilter home - like the Sacred Fools Ensemble - to be appreciated. We're lucky to have it here in Los Angeles under Pat Towne's direction, and with this gruesome cast of Gorey goblins.
Gorey wrote illustrated stories, usually no longer than forty panels long, in which violent death and supense are either the order of the day or the denouement. Some of his works are no longer than a sonnet, and when spoken aloud, they fly by quickly. We thought
Gorey Stories was at its best when incident followed incident with breathtaking speed, like the addition of new characters in The Curious Sofa or the rapid approach of terror in the Wuggly Ump. It was harder to watch the longer episodes like the Willowdale Handcar and the story of a overwrought opera singer. But, like in any good short story collection, something new and different was always a few screams away.
The stacatto acrobatic performances of the ensemble made Gorey Stories seem like a stop-motion merry-go-round. One moment someone is standing up talking, the next they've collapsed on the floor, and the next they're being dragged offstage. One quick costume change later, they're back on as one of the Insect God's legs or the hands of the Curious Sofa. No one sits backstage for long. Doll-faced Ryan Templeton and the towering Joe Jordan stand out in a great cast of tumbling clowns, mimes, drunks, and dancers. We also adored Pat Towne as the obsessed opera fan Jasper
In the second act, the story of the frustrated novelist, Mr C.F. Earbrass (an outraged, bemoustached Henry Dittman), is used to incorporate more Gorey vignettes. Earbrass tries to tell one story and gets sidetracked by others. Gorey-as-Earbrass has to deal with revolts against his authorial plan by his characters - particularly one "Loathsome Couple," (Templeton and Jordan, again, right out of Silence of the Lambs.) The best moment in
Gorey Stories occurs when Earbrass, beset by his characters, runs up a flight of stairs, hears the audience laughing, and stares at them in shock. To Earbrass (and perhaps also to Gorey) other people are as frightening as the Wuggly Ump, and to be watched is to be threatened. Earbrass hurries down the stairs and back behind the fourth wall, but the moment is unforgettable.
Gorey's style is lovingly copied in the draperies and staircases of Joel Daavid's set (we were impressed by the hand-drawn false proscenium curtains), and Ann Closs-Farley's Gothic costumes and masks walk that fine line between childlike, sexual, and clownish. Jessie Marion's acrobatic choreography is abrupt and delightful. Our favorite part was the way that the actors fling the props off stage when they're done with them, just as they fly through the curtains to die. But the real star of the Gorey design team is Cricket Sloat's artful lighting design, which always gives just enough light to see by and just enough darkness to be frightening. The show begins abruptly with a total blackout and no warning, and the lighting continues to be surprising.
Gorey Stories is accompanied by live music throughout, including Douglas Lee on glasses and saw (yes, saw!)
Gorey Stories performs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 pm through Nov. 13, with a special Halloween performance on Monday, Oct. 31 at 8 pm. Tickets are $20 ($30 for the Halloween costume party). Reservations: (310) 281-8337 or online. The Sacred Fools Theater is at 660 North Heliotrope, half a block south of Melrose, between Normandie and Vermont. Highly contested street parking is available (get there early!) or stacked parking in a lot by the theater for $5.
Gorey was born in 1925 and died (one hopes, abruptly) of a heart attack on April 15, 2000. This
obituary, "Rory Dagweed Succumbs," doesn't say whether or not he fell headlong into a giant urn, but one thing is for certain - the Osbick Bird is still sitting on his headstone.
“N is for Neville, who died of ennui!”
Oh, what a perfect match: Halloween night, the fearlessly inventive Sacred Fools Theater Company, and the delightfully perverse and most peculiar tales of the infamous late-great Edward Gorey! Leave the bags filled with tricked-for treats for the kiddies to pig out on and head to the Fools’ theatre, my adventurous readers, as the highly original Gorey Stories, adapted from some of the master’s best known work by Stephen Currens and featuring a suitably discordant original musical score by David Aldrich, offers a swell way to spend your upcoming holiday without having to dust off your favorite Darth Vader costume from the back of the hall closet.
Gorey’s signature neo-Victorian characters come to splendid life under the skillful hand of director Pat Towne, who also appears onstage as terminal opera fan Jasper Ankle, one of the wonderfully committed and decidedly Grand Guingol-esque participants in the drama. Still, maybe the best thing about this respectfully twisted group of Gorey Stories, even surpassing a knockout and fearless ensemble cast which includes the likes of LA theatre’s highly respected über-clown Joe Fria and the superbly Winona-Ryder-in-Beetlejuice-y Ryan Templeton, is the make-up, hair and costuming whipped up by our town’s most creative counterculture designer Ann Closs-Farley. Looking as though the outfits and characters walked right off the pages of Gorey’s classically warped black-and-white illustrated collections, Closs-Farley has outdone herself yet again, which is saying something more amazing than anyone could realize if you haven’t seen her work before, especially in the Evidence Room’s annual holiday 99-Cent Store extravaganzas.
Cricket Sloat’s wildly effective lighting, William Levine’s crescendoing sound design, and art director Joel Daavid’s charmingly Gothic set also show only the highest regard for Gorey—particularly Daavid’s towering two-level uniformly monochromatic playing area with huge arched gothic windows and crumbling faux brickwork which ingeniously allows this eclectic cast of characters to sweep through one entrance and escape through another with great ease, even popping up occasionally floating or cycling past the stage mansion’s omnipresent picture window with a pointedly pastoral view that would make Gorey himself smile. And what a cast it is doing the sweeping: Joe Jordan as a Lurch-like butler Harold, Kelley Hazen as the evening’s overly-dramatic hostess Lady Celia, Jenifer Hamel as poor sad Mary Rosemarsh, Lola Ward as the hilariously howling songstress Ortenzia Caviglia, Henry Dittman as tortured Unstrung Harp author C.F. Earbrass, and the doll-faced Paul Punkett as the resident woeful brat Little Henry, are all totally splendid in their roles, but it’s still the rubber-limbed Mr. Fria as Gorey’s goofy swain Hamish and Templeton as moaning maid Mona who set the bar for performance here.
And just when you’d think my admiration for Gorey Stories is fulsome enough, I also offer the highest of praise to musical director Graham Jackson, who leads an exceptional and properly idiosyncratic band made up of Jackson himself on keyboards, Gary Viggers on the bass, Kat Edwards on violin, and particularly Douglas Lee making musical magic with a set of water glasses and a wonky, warbling saw. Happily the musicians are placed onstage, making them seem almost as though they are characters themselves. Gorey Stories is imaginative, refreshing and just plain fun—and no one couldn’t have brought it to life better than impressive fools who live under the bridge of the 101 at Sacred Fools.
Imagine there’s no plasma. It isn’t hard to do. No surround sound around us…and no hi-definition too.
In a world where Walt Disney could very well be the arch-nemesis, “Gorey Stories” is a macabre mix of opera singers and rhymes, doomed children and crimes, and not to mention a peculiar curious chaise longue. Courtesy of the late Godfather of Goth toons, Edward Gorey, “Gorey Stories” takes us back to the ultimate wide-screen experience of theater when entertainment had yet to step into the color wheel and CGI.
Directed by Pat Towne and adapted for the stage by Stephen Currens, the play is a 3-dimensional retelling of such Gorey works as The Gashleycrumb Tinies, The Doubtful Guest, The Curious Sofa (Gorey’s pornographic story published under the moniker/anagram Ogred Weary) and The Unstrung Harp, among others.
Despite the play’s refreshing lack of primary colors, glitz and glam, the nine-person cast still shines in their roles as “deranged cousins,” “loathsome couples” and perverts. Ryan Templeton, who we are first introduced to as “Amy who fell down the stairs” during the play’s opening of The Gashleycrumb Tinies, brings her personification of the dead Raggedy Ann character to life throughout various sketches of the play. Joe Fria’s Joker-esque grinning as Hamish in The Curious Sofa is chilling yet thrilling, and his hilarious waddling and pecking opposite the towering Joe Jordan’s scowls in The Osbick Bird provides the perfect balance to the skit.
Taking its cue from Gorey’s Victorian black-and-white illustrations, the costume and set design was vibrant in all its monochrome glory. Employing Gorey’s signature fountain pen strokes in giant corrugated cardboard curtains and window scene backdrops, it felt as if the theater was just transported into the opening credits of PBS’ Mystery! for which Gorey animated the introduction. Sitting in the 75-seater Sacred Fools Theater, viewers can almost anticipate a giant nib drawing its way to the stage, ready to spill its black ink for the next performance piece.
The choreography is seamless; from the prologue of dying children in The Gashleycrumb Tinies to the Second Act’s medley of stories in The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr. C.F. Earbrass Writes A Novel, every performer flows effortlessly onstage. The music, by David Aldrich, accompanies the performance perfectly in its eccentricity with a live band featuring a vintage piano, bass, violin, music glasses and saw.
Where shadows usually keep viewers in the dark and are generally avoided in theater, “Gorey Stories” is a pleasurably dim-lit and morbid experience for those cobwebbed corners of our childhood mind.
I don't have any scientific data to back me up on this, but I'm guessing that Los Angeles County must have the highest rate of embarrassing original baby names. You can mainly blame celebrities, of course. Naming your baby "Apple" might be cute when she's bouncing around in a baby bjorn and acceptable til the ripe old age of 6. At that point, being named after fruit starts its long, certain trip toward being humiliating and stupid. Of course, if you're actor Rob Morrow and you name your daughter "Tu," you should be brought up on some kind of charges. Who wants to spend his or her life named a really unfunny pun? Thanks a lot, Dad. Loved you in Northern Exposure.
Names have a powerful effect. For example, Edward Gorey seems almost destined to have spent his creative energies doing something creepy. Edward Happy probably wouldn't have devoted so much time to illustrating amusing scenes of young cartoon children meeting gory deaths.
Also, we probably wouldn't have this week's winner on 1147 reviews:
Gorey Stories, playing at the Sacred Fools Theatre in Hollywood. This collection of vignettes from the very darkly comic work of Edward Gorey has brought out the inner ghoul in many Goldstar Events members. Evangeline Bolton calls it a "wickedly funny romp." Hikoichi Mitsuzuka says the show is "delightfully macabre" that's both "funny and scary." Luis Valenzuela comments that fans of such masters of the creepy as Charles Addams and Edgar Allan Poe will love the show and that "your Goth or Goth wannabees will love it too." Mark Meloccaro does point out that even though he enjoyed the show "there is one short act that's a bit bawdy" for younger children. Goldstar Events members rate Gorey Stories 3.6 out of 4.
So if by chance you're naming any children this week, stay clear of the lame jokes and names better suited to pets. This week, the Roar says a good name only makes great live entertainment better.
Jim McCarthy, CEO of Goldstar Events, read 1147 comments about 222 shows this week submitted by Goldstar members.
twisted tales will keep your attention... Macabre at its
“A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil who was assaulted by bears, C is for Clara who wasted away, D is for Desmond who was thrown out of a sleigh, E is for Earnest who choked on a peach, F is for Fanny sucked dry by a leech”, and those are the ones who got off easy. You may be asking what kind of twisted sort of tale or tales are these. These demented tidbits are derived from the mind of Edward Gorey (1925-2000), whose last name I believe is a perfect illustration of his eerie tales of gore. Sacred Fools Theatre along with a talented ensemble, present for your entertainment, “Gorey Stories”; an adaptation of several short stories written by Gorey himself. I like to think of this wickedly fun presentation as Mother Goose meets Tim Burton, a director who has a flair for mixing Macabre with humor.
In the opening scene we are introduced to the Gashleycrumb
Tinies, which is a wicked twist of poetry in the form of the A, B, C rhymes reciting the misfortunes and mishaps of various children from A to Z. A to F are listed above for your amusement. We are then exposed to tongue twisting limericks from The Listing Attic, and many others including the terror of The Curious Sofa, the ferocious appetite of The Insect God, the story of the demise of an opera singer by a deranged fan in The Blue Aspic, and my favorite, The Willowdale Handcar, chronicling the adventures of 3 kiddies going through the countryside on a handcar meeting some very particular characters and witnessing what they think to be a maid murdering the lady of the house, and that is just Act I.
Act II is a little different from Act I. In this selection of stories, the absent-minded writer, C.F. Earbrass attempts to finish his novel. Spinning off one story character then leaving that story half finished and starting another. Earbrass had quite a time keeping the lion tamer under control in the Lost Lions chapter. The Deranged Cousins are way beyond therapy, and The Pious Infant, needs the company of a good priest. Finally the scatter-brained author finishes up his novel attempt, and the evening of gore finishes with a reprise of the Gashleycrumb
This night of gore would be a perfect way to bring in the month of Halloween.
Most admirers of the late animator and writer Edward Gorey are unaware that he wrote a Broadway musical. That's because it ran for exactly one performance in 1978 before closing. Producer Michael Franco and director Pat Towne have revived Gorey Stories, reshaping its look and tone to inject vitality into the weak, disjointed script. And even though the results are mixed, there are several creepy, spooky, and darkly funny moments. The Goreyesque costumes and makeup, a haunted house set, eerie live music, and a couple of captivating performances overshadow the show's faults and make the evening a worthwhile experience.
The production is a series of sketches, songs, and poems by Gorey (the show was adapted by Stephen Currens with music by David Aldrich). Gorey, who died in 2000, enjoyed detailing the deaths and dismemberments of everyone, including innocent children, albeit with a dry sense of humor. The performance begins with a recitation of his Gothic Alphabet, which begins, "A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs. B is for Basil, assaulted by bears." Cast members, who play several roles each, take turns acting out the death for each letter. In "The Blue Aspic," Lola Ward is an opera singer with an obsessed stalker-fan (Towne). In "The Loathsome Couple," Mona and Harold (Ryan Templeton and Joe Jordan) bond over their desire to kill small children. Each tale is more dreary and gruesome than the
last -- everything a Halloween show requires.
The creative team has brought the imagery of Gorey to life. The costumes, designed by Ann Closs-Farley, are in various shades of gray, with nightmarish patterns that look as though Gorey had drawn them. The cast is heavily made up in ghostly white with black eye shadow and lipstick. Joel Daavid's set, an old Victorian house, works well for each story. The crowning touch is a four-piece band. Directed by keyboardist Graham Jackson, who wrote additional material for the production, the quartet features Douglas Lee playing water glasses and a saw.
Towne has pushed his cast to sell the creepy factor, but much of it comes across as trying too hard to create a mood that's not in the script. Ward, however, is quite effective in her various roles. She is able to be half-mad but also clearly has fun. And Templeton is the standout: With every roll of her eyes or sarcastic quip, she earned most of the evening's sorely needed laughs. It's clear Gorey's work doesn't translate easily to a stage musical. But this production is about as close as you can come to making it work.
The Sacred Fools Theatre company in Hollywood presents GOREY STORIES, a collection of skits and short musical pieces based on the writings of Edward Gorey, perform for the scary-yet-fun Halloween season.
The late Edward Gorey (d. 2000) illustrated and wrote a series of short stories, poems, prose, and plays that were based on dark and macabre settings, full of strange characters that experienced strange fates, many leading to death and other unique and mysterious demises. His illustrations had the same dark look to them that resembled a victorian-era woodcut drawing, with a bit of Goya and Charles Aadams thrown in for good measure!
Here, an ensemble of players bring some of his tales to life (or "death"), on stage. The characters, holding such names as "Ortenzia Caviglia", "Jasper Ankle", and "C.F. Earbrass", among others, have the look and feel of an actual black and white--really white, Gorey illustration, thanks to Joel Daavid's set design of a 'haunted house' type library, complete with shelves full of forgotten volumes of dusty books, and many doors leading to and from wherever. Ann Closs-Farley's costuming and masks makes every cast member looking like the living dead or the dead living, complete with flowing rag-tag outfits and white skull-type faces. David Aldrich provides the live musical score, leading with a four piece orchestra featuring Graham Jackson on the keyboards, Gary Viggers on bass, Kat Edwards on violin, and Douglas Lee on the water glasses and musical saw! (When was the last time a play had a band with a musical saw?)
Of course, the cast itself, many Sacred Fools regulars, is first rate! Those include (in alphabetical order), Henrey Dittman, Joe Fria, Jenifer Hamel, Kelley Hazen, Joe Jordon, Paul Plunkett, Ryan Temple, Pat Towne, and Lola Ward.
Adapted for the stage by Stephen Currens and directed by Pat Towne, GOREY STORIES is a delightful presentation of Edward Gorey's works. To use a tired (but fun) cliche, this show is kooky, spooky, mysterious, and ooky! If one is going to celebrate All Hallow's Eve at only one place this season, let that place be the Sacred Fools Theatre! And there's not a bum show in the (haunted?) house!
There will be a touch of Tim Burton and a smidgen of Zoo District nostalgia in the air at Sacred Fools Theater during the next several weeks. When one reads a description of Gorey Stories, based on the works of the celebrated writer-illustrator-designer-director Edward Gorey (1925–2000), visions of Burton's stop-action animation classic The Nightmare Before Christmas spring to mind. Michael Franco, co-producer of Gorey Stories, concurs that Burton's distinctive imagery is a great way to envision this piece, a creepy but fun play with music. Furthermore, based on advance peeks at Burton's just-opened film Corpse Bride, Franco speculates that it will evoke even stronger links to Gorey's style.
Adapter Stephen Currens devised the original 1978 Broadway production of Gorey Stories.
Gorey, besides writing the popular books that featured his own illustrations, worked in the theatre for a half-century—designing, writing, and/or directing 26 shows. He won a Tony for costume design and a nomination for scenic design for the 1978 Broadway revival of Dracula. He illustrated
T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the basis for the musical Cats. Gorey Stories is a compilation of his tales, songs, and limericks—a neo-Victorian vision of the world as dark, mysterious, and sinister but at the same time hilarious. In the mix are unusual creatures, curious landscapes, insanity, religious fanaticism, murder, catchy tunes, and the worlds of dance, opera, literature, and film. Franco says it makes for a good family show: There are occasional sexual implications, and the edgy subject matter is sardonic, but the amusing results are not unsuitable for children, who, after all, love Lemony
Snicket. The evening consists of a series of separate episodes, but, he points out, the overall effect will seem cohesive.
The prolific Franco—whose résumé includes producing, writing, acting, and directing credits—is working in association with co-producer Paul Plunkett and director Pat Towne. The three have dusted off the property, adding new original songs by Graham Jackson, but they are making no text changes. The production includes many onstage and behind-the-scenes artists from the Zoo District company, including Franco and Towne. Franco mentions that, at one time, a Zoo District tradition was the staging of an annual Halloween Face of Evil show, and he says this project ideally continues that history.
But he's quick to point out that this is a Sacred Fools production. There are many noted L.A. artists not associated with Zoo District working on the production, such as award-winning costumer and makeup designer Ann
Closs-Farley, well-known for work at Evidence Room. "Pat and I are extremely grateful for the opportunity to do this kind of work at Sacred Fools," says Franco. "This project is an example of the great cross-pollination among local theatre groups, as actors and designers continue to work at companies other than their own. I'm excited because I believe the company we've assembled represents the best talent in the city."
The project sounds like a highly ambitious undertaking for the 99-Seat Sacred Fools company. "I wouldn't say that's so in terms of budget," Franco notes. "I tend to do a lot with very little. But, yes, it is a big project when you consider all the elements being coordinated. I have 10 actors, four musicians, six stage crew members, a fully built set, plus incredible costumes and design elements. And there are other bells and whistles: special effects. We scheduled separate dance calls, music calls, warm-ups, and we're using elaborate makeup. Ambitious is the right word, but I am really enjoying watching it all occur."
Though Franco says it was more important to cast fine actors than expert singers for this show, he has no apologies for the musical aspects. "Several of our people sing really well," he notes. Despite tight-knit ensembles that exist at Sacred Fools and the Zoo District, Towne held open auditions. "When you have actors of the caliber of Joe Fria walk in the door, you know there's a very strong chance they'll be cast," Towne says. "But I wanted to branch out a bit and see what new people were out there in the community. I put an ad in Back Stage West, and, as a result, within two days we saw 125 people. We had all the best of the local theatre world to choose from, which thrills me. We were incredibly impressed with the outcome. One woman who showed up, Lola Ward, was particularly great, and let me tell you, she is going to blow people away."
Among those joining Ward and Fria in the seasoned cast are Henry
Dittman, Jenifer Hamel, Kelley Hazan, Mary Guilliams, Joe Jordan, and Ryan Templeton, as well as Plunkett and Towne. The stellar design team includes Joel Daavid (multiple award-winner for last year's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) on sets, Cricket Sloat on lights, D Morris on graphic design, and Farley. If all goes as the producers hope, Gorey's macabre madness, musical mayhem, and madcap mirth could become a new fall tradition for Sacred Fools.
Edward Gorey was the king of the macabre. As an author and illustrator, he delighted in depicting all things dark and foreboding, albeit in a comical way.
Gorey died in 2000 at the age of 75, but his work's cult status continues to grow.
What many Gorey fans don't know is that he wrote a Broadway musical. With music by David Aldrich, "Gorey Stories" premiered Oct. 30, 1978. It closed the same night.
The show rarely is produced. But producer Michael Franco and director Pat Towne are quite familiar with the material and believe they understand what it takes to make "Gorey Stories" better reflect the style of its creator.
"We did 'Gorey Stories' 20 years ago at the Chicago Actors Ensemble," Franco said. "We had a lot of fun doing it, but there were things I would have done differently. Some of the songs are incongruent with Gorey. They are a bit too happy. We need to take them to this dark place, to a world that Gorey created where people literally die of ennui."
"Gorey Stories" was selected when Towne told Franco he wanted to recreate the spirit they had while doing Halloween shows for the Los Angeles-based theater company Zoo District. Towne agreed that with the proper treatment of the material, the musical, which is a series of scenes based on Gorey's tales and illustrations, would be ideal.
"We had to instill a sense of creepiness into it," Towne said.
All of the creative team, including costume designer Anne Closs-Farley, has been researching the early works of Gorey so the style of the show matches. Musically, the live band has been augmented with a musician who can play drinking glasses, creating that spooky sound that no other instrument can duplicate.
And during rehearsals, Towne has found ways to have his actors heighten the sense of horror and fright, even in the lighter moments.
"That's what Gorey was about, and it's part of why he still is so popular," Franco said. "His work was dark, the humor was dry and it was intelligent."
Though Monday performances are rare in the theater world, "Gorey Stories" will end on Monday, Oct. 31, with a Halloween party and prizes for best costume. Tickets are $30 for this event. A similar post-show party and costume contest will take place Oct. 29. Tickets are $40.
"If you're looking for a fun, creepy time, this is it," Franco said.