It wouldn’t be October in L.A. without the annual return of the creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky theatrical event that turns Altadena’s Mountain View Mausoleum And Cemetery into the chills-and-chuckles-packed trilogy of terror and suspense better known as Wicked Lit.
Like the seven other Wicked Lits before it, Wicked Lit 2016 has its audience traveling from columbarium to chapel to crypts (both indoor and out), though the order in which you see Anansi And The Demons, From Beyond, and The Shadowy Third will depend on which of the three color-coded groups of 25 or so you’re assigned to.
However sequenced, each Wicked Lit 8.0 experience begins (and groups reunite) at Camp Mountain View (written by Jonathan Josephson, directed by Paul Milet), whose off-kilter counselors (Kevin Dulude’s Big Papa, Meghan Lewis’s Peggy, Jennifer Novak Chun’s Annie-Jane, and Sam Silverstein’s Howie) set the mood for the evening ahead.
Anansi And The Demons (adapted by Josephson from the canon of Anansi stories and Ashanti proverbs and directed by Jaime Robledo) takes us to the Mountain View graveyard where the African folktale character known as Anansi (Jacquelin Schofield) and her fellow West Africans Mmotia (Ariel Brown), Obayifo (Chioma Nwosu), and Pak Kenwe (Tory N. Thompson) along with British Ambassador Sutherland (Chairman Barnes) and our guides Nigel (Eric Cire) and Lucas (Guy Picot) set off on an adventure promising plenty of demonic fun (for us, if not for them).
HP Lovecraft’s From Beyond (adapted by Trey Nichols and directed by Jeff G. Rack) has Inspector Thobald (Richard Large) and his faithful sidekick Detective Littlewit (Richard Mooney) investigating the apparent murder of scientist Crawford Tillinghast (Dusty Hess), with Tillinghast’s best friend (and prime suspect) Dr. Howard Phillips (Eric Keitel) insisting that if any shots were fired, they were intended to destroy the horrific evil spirits set loose by an electronic contraption of Tillinghast’s invention.
In Ellen Glasgow’s The Shadowy Third (adapted by Millet and directed by Bruce Gray), Bellevue Hospital psychiatrist Margaret (Brooke Clendenen) finds herself summoned by Dr. Maradick (Michael Perl) to examine (and presumably commit) his mad-as-a-hatter British wife Charlotte (Hannah Whiteoak), whose young daughter Dorothea seems to have vanished (or died, or joined the ranks of the undead), with comely blonde nurse Rebecca (McKenzie Eckels) around to raise suspicions of extramarital hanky-panky. (Storyguide Paul Myrvold leads us through this twisted tale)
Performances are delightfully heightened all the way round, with special snaps to Schofield’s magnetic spirit-conjurer, Mooney’s peppy police dick, Whiteoak’s off-her-rocker wife, and recent Scenie winner Dulude’s indescribable Big Papa.
Not only does Wicked Lit 2016 allow its participants to discover (or rediscover) Mountain View Mausoleum And Cemetery’s architectural and design wonders, kudos go out once again to those who have transformed the one-of-a-kind venue’s many halls and chambers and nooks and crannies into assorted imaginative stage settings.
Production designers outdo themselves once again this year, with oohs and aahs due lighting designers Martha Carter, Darrell Clark, Hilda Kane and Jeffrey E. Teeter, resident costume designer Christine Cover Ferro, sound designers Drew Dalzell and Noelle Hoffman, projection designer Jeffrey E. Teeter, production builder Kurtis Bedford, set and EFX designer Rack, wigs and makeup whiz Judi Lewin, and fight choreographer William Joseph Hill.
Special mention this year must be made of Wicked Lit 2016’s awesome bevy of puppets, designed and created by Joe Seeley, spectacular spectral creations each and every one.
TaShaunna Peterman is production stage manager, Emily Abbott, Benjamin Scuglia, and Lorraine Zazzaretti are stage managers, and Kyle Fox, Eddie Gallogly, Lara Noriega, and Amanda Sauter are assistant stage managers.
Rachel Manheimer is production manager. Wicked Lit 2016 is produced by Unbound Productions: Millet, Rack, and Josephson.
If you haven’t yet discovered Wicked Lit in its eight annual incarnation, I’ve got only one question for you: What are you waiting for? It’s simply not Halloween without a night at the graveyard!
Note: Wicked Lit is not for those who have difficulty walking. Attendees are advised to wear comfortable walking shoes and watch their step in the near darkness often around them.
Mountain View Mausoleum & Cemetery Altadena, 2400 Fair Oaks Avenue, Altadena.
October 13, 2106
Photos: Daniel Kitayama, John Thvedt