Review: Two Weird Tales

by Lynn on April 29, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, presented by Eldritch Theatre, playing at 922 Queen St. E., until April 30, 2023.

Eric Woolfe, the always imaginative, intensely creative magical force behind Eldritch Theatre, has adapted two classics and brought them to the stage in a one-man-several puppets-and lots of magic-extravaganza.

Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1915) and HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness (1931) are the two weird tales in question.

In Metamorphosis, salesman Gregor Samsa wakes one day, ready to go to work as usual, when he realizes he’s changed into a cockroach overnight. Terrifying. He has lost his language and can’t communicate with his family, whom he supports financially. There is his sister, who wants to study music and his two elderly parents. He supports them all. This metamorphosis into a cockroach puts a crimp in that support. The sister brings him food but soon even she forgets to do that, the family just ignores him and Gregor dies.

Kafka writes of a world of being trapped in a world you don’t understand and can’t do anything about. The Trial, a man is accused of a crime but is not told what it is. He goes on trial but the details there are also not told him. He can’t find anyone to help. He is alone….and on and on.

In Metamorphisis Gregor is transformed. He is no longer the son that takes care of the family. He is now an odious ‘other’ to be shunned, starved and killed as if there is no connection to them at all.

Eric Woolfe has adapted the story with care. He has created all the puppets, from the cockroach to the harried looking sister, the angry parents and the forbidding boss, and flits around the make-shift stage for this tale, made of cardboard and stuff. The writing tells the story beautifully, spare, heartfelt, thoughtful. It is the most moving telling of this story I have ever heard. Eric Woolfe imbues this with kindness, compassion and prescience.

And now for something completely different: At the Mountains of Madness by HP Lovecraft.

At the Mountains of Madness is a science fiction-horror novella by America writer, H.P. Lovecraft. Interestingly it was initially refused for publication because it was too long. It then was published in serial form. This doesn’t stop Eric Woolfe who has adapted this with his usual arsenal of multi-syllabic words that tap-dance off the tongue, leaving one dazzled and breathless at his invention. It’s like listening to linguistic gymnastics. Woolfe makes words sound delicious.  

The story details a disastrous expedition to Antarctica. The events are dizzyingly convoluted, complex, sometimes confusing trying to keep track of it all, and wild. The narrator of the story is geologist Dr. William Dyer of Miskatonic University. The details are so horrible Dr. Dyer hopes to deter an upcoming exploration to Antarctica. He talks of discovering an ancient civilization, savage beasts ready to tear apart human flesh, danger, missing members of the group, found slaughtered with missing body parts. Gruesome. And magic, lots and lots of magic.

Eric Woolfe narrates the story, again, using the most inventive, forbidding looking puppets. He uses slides of maps, murder and mayhem. And to punch things up a notch, he uses a video recorder to show closeups of magic tricks to accompany the narration. Eric Woolfe’s dexterousness is effortless. Members of the audience, assumed to be professors and other scholars, are asked to pick a card, put it back in the pack, he puts the pack on the table, he might then open a locked box, take out a sealed envelope in which is the card that was picked. (the trick might be slightly different, but you get the gist of it.) The trick is mind-boggling and head shaking. Forget “how does he do that?” He does it. It’s magic. Deal with it.

Eldritch Theatre presents:

Runs until April 30, 2023.

Running time: 2 hours. (1 intermission)

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