The ghosts are deceased and (relatively) well and haunting the hotel where Steve Yockey has set Very Still And Hard To See, his World Premiere Scary Play and the latest offering from August Viverito and T L Kolman’s The Production Company.

The theatrical equivalent of Disneyland’s Space Mountain, i.e. equal parts excitement, terror, and glee, Very Still And Hard To See provides thrills galore under Michael Matthews’ masterful direction.

 Yockey’s series of seven creepy, kooky vignettes unfold on a completely blank, blackbox stage onto whose floor and walls the ensemble chalk on quite a few more than Dante’s 9 Circles in the play’s deliciously ominous prologue.

WARNING: Those wishing to avoid SPOILERS are advised to skip down to END OF SPOILERS.)

Scene One, “underground,” introduces us to Obake (CB Spencer) and a hotshot architect named Buck (Andrew Crabtree), who seems to have fallen down into a very deep hole under the high-rise hotel he’s been building. Displeased with the location Buck has picked for his latest erection, Obake offers him a deal. If the young architect would just move the hotel a tad thataways, she’ll be more than happy to grant his wish, and the darker, the better.

 Wish granted, Obake and her gang of fellow demons settle down to enjoy six more tales either taking place in or somehow connected to Buck’s Tower Of Terror.

Three is definitely a crowd in “dreadful parlor games,” which has boyfriend and girlfriend Sam (James Louis Wagner) and Kimberly (Tiffany Cole) sharing a hotel room with Sam’s good-natured best friend Jasper (Coleman Drew), a room that’s not quite large enough for the threesome once a pair of demons (Katherine Skelton and Michael Tauzin as Kami 1 and Kami 2) slip inside Jasper to teach Sam and Kimberly the difference between a “living room” and a “parlor.”

Next up is “bleach and other household chores,” featuring young wife Betty (Skelton), whose obsessive midnight scrubbing reveals a hole in her marriage to night-wanderer Ethan (Wagner), and opens up a much bigger, deeper one in the kitchen floor—with a little help from Mud Woman (Spencer).

 In “an unfortunate storm-related mishap,” Edith (Adeye Sahran), a young wife whose perkiness masks a dark secret in her past, recalls a vacation with her boorish spouse that turns violent once she just happens to find a coffee pot in her hand.

 “hearts and flowers” introduces us to sexy lesbian Ginger (Cole), whose unfortunate history of blind dates doesn’t bode well for Violet (Skelton), the latest in a few centuries of Very Bad Dates. A pair of kooky Shikigami (Sahran and Crabtree) are on hand to make sure Ginger gets her usual mouthful.

 A sassy young elevator man Franklin (Coleman Drew) recounts “a personal account of the renovation” of the Haunted Hotel to an unsuspecting new guest (Wagner) who gets more than the simple “Going up!” he’s bargained for thanks to fellow elevator riders Punch (a ruffle-aproned, cat’s-eye-bespectacled Sahran) and her human-sized pet Canary (a shirtless, yellow-winged Crabtree).

“above ground” brings us full circle to the architect’s pill-popping granddaughter Simone’s (Cole) reminiscences about not-so-dear old Grandpa Buck to the horror or husband David (Tauzin).


Yockey’s script as imaginative as it gets, the names of several of its unearthly characters revealing its roots in Japanese ghost tales, and as horror movie fans know, no one does thrills and chills quite like the Japanese.

Still, Very Still And Hard To See wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it ends up being on the Lex Theatre stage without the inestimable contributions of director Matthews, doing some of his most inspired, inventive work since making the trek west from Chicago a half-dozen or so years ago.

In addition to setting just the right otherworldly tone in the all-around smashing performances of his talented young cast, Matthews stages ensemble movements like an avant-garde dance performance, with actors creeping and crawling and rolling and arising individually and in unison like the demons from hell they are bringing to death.

Tim Swiss’s eerie lighting and Cricket S. Myers’ spooky sound design play a large part each in keeping the excitement level high throughout, as Matthews’ cast of eight inhabit the bodies, earthly or otherwise, of Yockey’s eclectic lineup of characters.

 The always stellar Spencer is delectably demonic while terrorizing Crabtree (and everyone else for that matter). Crabtree, who gets to play terrorized for a change, does so quite niftily indeed, both as architect Buck and as that brawny Canary. It’s great fun to watch terrific L.A. stage newcomer Drew go all Jack Nicholson in The Shining when the devil takes a hold of Jasper’s soul, and the recent AMDA grad is equally fine as the elevator boy you do not want pushing your button. Wagner (of The Blank’s recent The Cost Of The Erection) is once again a standout in Very Still And Hard To See, which offers him the chance to play three very different roles. Cole impresses in three parts as well, most notably in her tasty turn as a luscious lesbian with a quite literal hunger for her blind dates. Skelton, as the stain-obsessed wife in “bleach and other household chores,” and Sahran, as the unwilling vacationer in “an unfortunate storm-related mishap,” both do fabulous work in the tour de force scenes Yockey has written for these two characters, and in their other roles as well. Matthews discovery Tauzin once again shines in his fifth MM play, particularly in the evening’s final scene, one which offers him the chance to play agape and aghast in the best horror story tradition.

Two tips of the hat go to assistant director/fight choreographer Jen Albert and a third to properties designer Michael O’Hara. Very Still And Hard To See is produced by Kolman and Viverito. Jennifer Davis and Rainy Fields are stage managers.

The Production Company’s latest brings back the excitement of an old-time Saturday kiddy matinée screening of one of those classic black-and-white Hollywood horror flicks, with thrills and chills provoking equal parts fear and delight. I’m not a horror buff, but I relished every deliciously blood-chilling minute of Very Still And Hard To See.

The Production Company at the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Avenue, Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
June 8, 2012
Photos: Sean Lambert and Tim Swiss

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