by Lynn on October 30, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen St. E, Toronto, Ont. Presented by the Eldritch Theatre until Nov. 5, 2023.

Created and performed by Eric Woolfe

Designed by Melanie McNeill

Cast: Eric Woolfe

Emma Mackenzie Hillier

Terrifying! Jaw-dropping-amazing! Hilarious!

This is not a ghoulish show in time for Halloween. This is much more important. This is a show, in which Doc Wuthergloom, the star of his own epic, wants nothing short of saving all mankind from the many and various, monsters, cryptids and weird creatures that lurk among us, ready to pounce, pummel, suck and tear us to shreds. All we need to do is be vigilant and purchase “Doc Wuthergloom’s Field Guide to Monsters.” The price is nominal. The value of such a tome is priceless.

While Doc Wuthergloom regales us with tales of child-eating faeries, a cigar smoking Kapre of the Philippines, the tale of Edward Mordrake the man with two faces (one on the front and one on the back of his head), evil twins, the Dreaded Suburban Sasquatch, and more, he is distracting us with magic tricks. Perhaps it’s to ease the horror by amazing us with magic and weird puppets. There are lots of weird puppets. Most have only their heads and no bodies (now that’s weird—under torture Eric Woolfe, master puppeteer, admitted he doesn’t like making bodies of puppets, hence he makes only heads).

 Who is Doc Wuthergloom who uses Eric Woolfe as an alter ego? The ‘press’ info says it best: “Doctor Pretorious Wuthergloom is the infamous necromancer, travelling exorcist and arcane medicine showman.”

The show actually begins when we enter the murky environs of the Red Sandcastle Theatre. We are greeted by “Camille” (Emma Mackenzie Hillier), a Brooklyn accented (!), gum-chewing, cheerful woman who greets us at the door. In another time she would be described as a “Cigarette Girl”—those comely but ‘scantily’ clad women who carry a tray of cigarettes for sale. In Camille’s case she wears a short skirt, thigh-high stripped socks and heels. Her lipstick is red and her face glows. She carries a tray in front of her with tarot cards, buttons and ghoulish trinkets, as well as the indispensable Field Guide to Monsters for sale. I think she cheerfully said she hoped we survived the show, and then was off to charm some other unsuspecting patron.

All the while Doc Wuthergloom sat scowling in a corner of the stage, watching, with a sneer, as the audience files in. His facial make-up is white with black streaks over the lips and brow, and round eye glasses, to make him look forbidding. He wears a dapper red and black stripped blazer, black pants and almost knee high black and white sneakers.  He expertly shuffles a deck of cards and flips a card from the deck with one hand. His dexterousness is impressive. All sorts of stuff is arranged around the stage and a table of sorts on the stage. Something is covered with a colourful cloth. Whatever is under there can’t be happy.

When the show is ready to begin, Doc Wuthergloom does some magic tricks, gets applause and he says that he cares not if we applaud, he already has our money. This is one irascible dude. He does magic tricks. He reveals a ‘porcelain’ egg, passes a cloth over it or some other such magiciany stuff and then ‘swallows’ the egg with a gulp. I wonder if I have Rolaids in my backpack in case I get ‘sympathetic indigestion.’

He passes a small ball from one hand to another and it disappears and is revealed somewhere unexpected. One is sure of how the trick is done—hidden here or there—and then one just gives up trying to see the trick and just believes that it’s either magic or close to it.

Doc Wuthergloom tells the various stories of mayhem and horror using his many and various puppets. Wuthergloom is intense. His voice is gruff. He is unsettled by the horrifying details.  The puppets are used for murder and mayhem. ‘Blood and guts’ are strewn around the stage. It’s all inventive.

All the while Doc Wuthergloom is doing magic tricks that get more and more complex. A card picked from a deck of cards by a person in the audience who puts the card back in the deck and the picked card appears from somewhere impossible because it was locked in a box or put in a sealed envelope or some such. There is no explanation. It’s magic.

Creator Eric Woolfe has written a bracing, funny script with erudite, almost old-fashioned language which makes it all the funnier. He is keenly attuned to his audience and can riff on their comments with quick wit. Dr. Wuthergloom is a great guide to the dark world of monsters. They are out there. Among us. Most of them are at the Red Sandcastle Theatre. You have been warned and are urged to see for yourself.  

Eldritch Theatre Presents:

Plays until Nov. 5, 2023.

Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

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