The Mountain View Mausoleum And Cemetery is the undisputed star of Wicked Lit 2014, providing a venue so mysterious and spooky that it outweighs any objections one might have about the 5th-annual creepy, kooky trio of terr(or)ific one-acts’ more than three-hour-long running time.

McKenzie-Eckels-and-Eric-Keitel.-Wicked-Lit-2014.-Photo-by-Daniel-Kitayama.-1024x682 Like Tamara, The Manor, The House Of Besarab, and other Wicked Lits before it, Wicked Lit 2014 has its audience traveling from room to room—or in this case from crypt to chapel to columbarium to graveyard—as its actors bring to life (or should that be death?) its tales of terror and suspense.

The order in which you see Dracula’s Guest, The Monk, or Las Lloronas will depend on which of the three color-coded groups of 25 or so you’re assigned to, but each Wicked Lit experience begins (and groups reunite) in the entry courtyard, where the wacky The Spirits Of Walpurgisnacht (written and directed by Charlie Mount and Aurora Long) sets a tongue-in-cheek mood that reappears to a greater or lesser extent in all three one-acts.

John-T.-Cogan-and-Angie-Hobin.-Wicked-Lit-2014.-Photo-by-Daniel-Kitayama.-1024x801 Dracula’s Guest (adapted by John Leslie from the short story by Bram Stoker and directed by Jeff G. Rack) is the tongue-in-cheekiest of the three, a Hammer Films-eque tale of a handsome young Englishman’s ill-fated attempts to travel by coach to Dracula’s Transylvanian manse on the aforementioned Walpurgisnacht, aka the year’s most satanic of nights. (That our hapless English hero might just end up with a pair of vampire fangs in his neck pretty much goes without saying.)

Ember-Knight.-Wicked-Lit-2014.-Photo-by-John-Thvedt.-682x1024 Wendy-Worthington.-Wicked-Lit-2014.-Photo-by-Ellen-Smiler.-1024x682

The Monk (adapted from Matthew Gregory Lewis’s novel by Douglas Clayton and directed by Debbie McMahon) introduces us to a lovely young Spanish señorita named Matilda, whose quest for spiritual guidance leads her to Madrid, where a fateful encounter with a not-so-saintly monk-and-nun duo awaits.

1800319_773844802675682_3890065645049999022_n 10672213_773844726009023_6101256393160511397_n Las Lloronas (adapted by Jonathan Josephson from the legend of La Llorona “and real events” and directed by Paul Millet) takes itself the most seriously of the three one-acts, recounting multiple versions of the Mexican legend of a beautiful young mother who would rather drown her infant children than be without the man that she loves. (A fictionalized Susan Smith is just one of Las Lloronas we meet in a one-act that features song and dance alongside monologs and dramatic effects.)

This year’s cast—Elyse Ashton, Joe Camareno, John T. Cogan, Angel Duran, McKenzie Eckels, Kyle Fox, Katelyn Gault, Bianca Gisselle, Anna Gabrielle Gonzales, Eric Harris, Dustin Hess, William Joseph Hill, Angie Hobin, Eric Keitel, Ember Knight, Richard Large, Sonny James Lira, Lisa McNeely, Melissa Perl, Michael Perl, Tina Van Berckelaer, and Wendy Worthington— is large and talented and clearly having a great time enacting these tales thrice nightly, though this reviewer for one would have had an even greater time had each one-act undergone a ten-minute trim.

Still, what keeps audiences coming back October after October for a different three playlets each year is the experience of visiting a location unlike any I’ve ever seen.

Not only is the Mountain View Mausoleum And Cemetery an architectural/design wonder I had no idea even existed, its has been lit to thrilling effect (and with spectacular ingenuity) by Ric Zimmerman and Hilda Kane with some gorgeous projection designs by Adam Flemming.

Production designer Kurtis Bedford deserves major props too for converting the one-of-a-kind venue’s many halls and chambers and nooks and crannies into assorted stage settings, the most striking of which may well be the courtyard from above which we witness The Monk’s hyper-dramatic finish.

Sound designers Drew Dalzell and Noelle Hoffman outdo themselves each and every step of the way, and the mind boggles at how many hidden speakers there must be inside and out, with special kudos to a surround-sound graveyard that must be heard to be believed. (How so many sound and lighting cues are coordinated is equally imagination-defying.)

Resident costume designer Christine Cover Ferro’s multiple creations are pretty darned spectacular as well, with added kudos going to resident makeup artist Julie Pound.

Credit goes also to sound manager Hoffman, production manager Jacqueline Adorni, master electrician David Patrick, special effects designer Rack, choreographer Hobin, fight director Gregory Hoffman, musical director Gisselle, stage managers Heidi Marie, TaShaunna Peterman, Andrew Tisnado, and Taylor Shaw, and assistant stage managers Michael Candelet, Edward Gallogly, Gaselle Melendez, and Amanda Sauter.

Those in search of scream-inducing Knotts Scary Farm/Halloween Horror Nights-style terror should be advised that Wicked Lit 2014 is tame enough for even as lily-livered an observer as this reviewer to enjoy. If the creative team can find a way to whittle down Wicked Lit 2015 by half-an-hour or so, I for one would not mind going back for even more otherworldly delights next year.

Note: Wear comfortable walking shoes and watch your step in the near darkness around you.

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Mountain View Mausoleum & Cemetery, 2300 N. Marengo Ave. Altadena.

–Steven Stanley
October 9, 2014
Photos: Daniel Kitayama, Ellen Smiler, John Thvedt

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