Article by: Scott Feinblatt
Lovecraft's Texts In The Flesh
The Visceral Company Presents a Mixed Media Theatrical Reading
H.P. Lovecraft's writings typically
focus on communicating intangible
things – whether they are ancient
cosmic deities which defy human logic
or, simply, the emotions of characters
in fantastical situations. Of course the
sensations, themselves, cannot be
imparted directly, so readers rely on
the narration of Lovecraft's
protagonists, whose perceptions
usually careen off into brilliant and
chaotic strings of imaginative
adjectives and hyperbole that
readers are to assume only hint at
the experiences of the characters. In
this way, Lovecraft communicates the
shadows of his imagination.

Many storytellers have since
assimilated Lovecraft's themes and
motifs as well as paid homage to his
words by adapting them for various
media. Last night, I attended a series
of creative stage renditions of
Lovecraft stories which, above all,
demonstrated reverence and a
dignified treatment of the source
Daniel Jimenez narrates the story "Nyarlathotep" .                   Photo by Jeremy Andorfer
According to the show's program, The Visceral Company premiered Lovecraft: Nightmare Suite ten years ago as
an ultra low budget off-off-Broadway production. Since then, the horror-centric company has produced numerous
critically acclaimed shows in the LA area and has recently been labeled by
Fangoria magazine as: “LA's premiere
horror theater troupe”.
Starting September 27, 2013, director Dan
Spurgeon and producer Drew Blakeman re-
visited the Lovecraft show and enhanced the
production with a technical make-over. While I'm
not aware of the discrepancies between the
former version and the revitalized one, this
production's use of puppets, silhouettes and
projections formed a great complement for the
onstage players, whose dialog is essentially the
verbatim text of six of Lovecraft's stories (plus a
prologue, an epilogue and a few snippets of
poetry to act as transitions between the stories).

The modest ensemble cast of eight players
impeccably portrayed the various characters
and character types that are familiar to
aficionados of Lovecraft's
canon. Apart from
some slight truncations for timing, the only
notable variations from the original texts were a
few gender swaps which provided Spurgeon the
freedom to introduce his own narrative twists –
specifically, a romantic subtext and an increase
in pathos. Garth Herberg's original music and
sound design provided the perfect aural
Nicole Fabbri provides a Victorian heart while narrating "Cool Air" while
Devereau Chumrau adds comedic charm with her role as the landlady.
                                                                                     Photo by Jeremy Andorfer
tapestry for the production, while Pam Noles's costuming and John
Burton's set design and puppets created a realistic yet fantastical
period setting, which was warmly lit by Dave Sousa. All of the
individual artistic departments were well-executed. The overall
artistry effectively reflected the spirit of Lovecraft's work, and the
performers' respective commitments to their roles allowed
Lovecraft's characters an opportunity to live and breath in the
space of Hollywood's
Lex Theater.

Being that the actual text does not stray very far from the source
material, the show essentially plays like a love letter to Lovecraft
and his devotees. It succeeds as an admirable work of art, which
synthesizes a number of theatrical techniques with affective results.
Lovecraft: Nightmare Suite probably connects most strongly with
people who are already fans of Lovecraft. Unwitting theater-goers
are likely to be charmed by the sights and sounds of the
presentation and entranced by the intensity of the actors yet may
be slightly overwhelmed by the presentation of a half-dozen stories
– given the infamous ornamentation and complexity of Lovecraft's
prose. Then again, there's also the possibility that they'll become
mesmerized and fall under his spell...forever.
Eric Sand as Howard Phillips in the Prologue
and Epilogue of
Lovecraft: Nightmare Suite.
                                      Photo by Jeremy Andorfer