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She Who Lurks By Day
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in teenybuffalo's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, November 22nd, 2015
10:03 am
Lift up your hearts
Friendly reminder that the song swap is this afternoon, at 1:00, at my house. Come join in! Poke me if you don't have directions and want them.

I just found out that Danny McLeod, excellent folksinger from the north of England, and all-round swell guy, died sometime in the last couple of days. I'm sorry to see him go. Today, I gotta sing one of his and wife/performing partner Joyce McLeod's settings of C. Fox Smith.
Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
12:08 am
We've sung together many's the time
Fun thing coming up: I'm having a traditional song swap at my house on this coming Sunday, November 22nd, and you're all invited. 1 p.m. till about 5 p.m. This is an unaccompanied singaround. Traditional songs are encouraged, but I won't stop you from singing something recently written; I'd like to have lots of good chorus songs, but we can also make time for solos and ballads from time to time. Within those rules, anything goes.

This is a Folk Song Society of Greater Boston event. FB event here if you'd like to RSVP or see who else is coming; for non-FB friends, comment here if you haven't been to my house and want directions. If you've been here before and know you like this sort of thing, just show up on Sunday any time frome one p.m. on, and we'll have some songs.

Some details:

--This is not a potluck; bring snacks if you want to, but that's not mandatory and the focus is on the singing. I'll provide some nibbles and soda, tea, and water.
--Beer/cider/boozes are OK to bring, but, again, not the focus here.
--Parking in my neighborhood is free on Sundays. This is on a Sunday. Coincidence?
--I live near Powderhouse Square, reasonable walking distance from the Davis Square T stop.
Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
6:48 pm
And I am a doggerel bard
Because I usually forget to announce these things with enough lead time:

On Friday, Nov. 20, at 7:00 p.m., at the Sloane Merrill Gallery in Boston, I'm in a poetry reading with A.J. Odasso, Gillian Daniels, and Sonya Taaffe. FB event is here if you'd like to sign up that way; comment here if you don't do Facebook and want to come to the reading.
Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
12:54 am
The viol, the violet and the vine
Tonight's weird poetry offering: "The City in the Sea," by Edgar Allan Poe.
Monday, November 9th, 2015
1:36 am
Each has business of his own
I'm starting to get the hang of this new microphone. Here's a mouthwatering taster of readings to come: the beginning of George Meredith's poem, "The Woods of Westermain."
Friday, October 30th, 2015
12:09 am
God will give you blood to drink
"Who Is It That Afflicts You?" by Rachel. Excellent essay on the Salem witch panic, posted at Autostraddle. Linked on Tumblr by mooncustafer; thank you.
Monday, October 26th, 2015
11:08 pm
We shall make an Irving of you yet
I just saw The Woman in Black at the Davis Square Theatre, and it's excellent. There are two more performances left, tomorrow and Wednesday; they're putting the show on in a blaze of no publicity at all, during the nights the theater can spare around its other shows. It should get more attention. The actors, Brian Savage and Ben Lewin, play a variety of characters nimbly, and convey a sense of mounting dread that rises through the show.

Sometimes the horror is subtle, other times it's up in your face. There are a few laughs, but they mostly occur in the jarring introductory section where we're introduced to the conceit that we're watching a play be created by a young acting teacher (Ben Lewin, cocky and confident and then increasingly terrorized) and the middle-aged and haunted Mr. Kipps. I particularly liked Brian Savage's series of daffy old guys with cute pet dogs, ghastly visions, or pony-and-traps to drive. There was good use of recorded sound to create stuffy interiors or creaks and screams in the night. (The characters remark on it in the framing narrative.) The staging had exactly the right amount of real action vs. indicated action (driving an imaginary trap, rescuing a puppy from quicksand) to be convincing without getting silly.

My adverse criticism is that everything seemed a bit underprepared: there were line flubs from both actors, the sound cues were off at one point, the lighting failed to reveal [creepy visual] and I only knew it was there because I'd seen the play before, that sort of thing. The action of the play had been moved from London and the north of England to Boston and the wilds of Maine, and that would have worked if the revision had edited out Britishisms like "Boston pea-soup fogs" and "this corner of our little island."

My only other viewing of this play was about fifteen years ago, when I was a mere tadpole of theatre appreciation, at the Cape Rep in Brewster, MA. That was a good production, but this was even a little better--and it's been long enough for me that I'd forgotten the important revelations, so I was as surprised as everyone else. Altogether, a very strong ghost play.
1:11 am
A poor workman proceeds to blame her tools
So I have an excellent-quality microphone now, I'm using Audacity, and I've made myself a pop filter out of the ass of a pair of tights stretched over a bent coathanger...

...and STILL all I can do is make recordings that sound like my head is a hundred yards away with a pillow pressed over its face. *mur mur murmurmur*smack*rustle*crunch*

I feel so freaking stupid. I don't get what the problem is, and I thought I'd be able to intuit what I needed to change, but evidently not. I need to ask someone for help with this, but the fact that I hate looking ignorant is holding me back from that. And it's so SIMPLE! But I'm embarrassed to say, "Help, I don't know how to use a microphone or understand what the hell I see when I look at Audacity." I hate feeling stupid, but even more do I hate looking stupid. That's what tends to make me quietly put things like this aside and never revisit them. (I may or may not be making this post in order to stay accountable.)
Saturday, October 24th, 2015
10:51 am
Selfies with sphinxes
(Sphinges? Spinks? One Spink, two Spinks.)

So I occasionally share my photos on Tumblr. Since I consider LJ my true home, and since LJ's capacity for picture hosting is rubbish, I'm going to just start linking my photo posts here when I've done something I think worthy of sharing with you all.

I visited Burlington, VT back in August just for the hell of it, took a ton of photos, then came home and had one of my frequent What Am I Doing With My Life I'm An Aesthetic Sham crises and never did much with the photos till now. Let me right that ancient wrong.

Behold: me, back in August, in a small park between a major highway and a supermarket, outside Burlington. [Edit: it's the Pomerleau Neighborhood Park.] I wanted to see if this park was as bizarre as I remember it being, five years ago on my last visit, and it did not disappoint me.

All the statues depict sphinxes, with wings, some with two faces/fronts and some single entities up on pillars grown with masses of vines. The statues are by Leslie Fry, whose website has excellent photos of the park, including autumn depictions of the sphinxes wrapped in reddening vine leaves.

Sphinxes gaze in one another's eyes in the sunlight. There's a love story there if we only knew what it was. "All day the same our postures were/ And we said nothing all the day."

These shots give some idea of the shape of the park: a round center planting, full of slim trees and overflowing with lush ivy vines, and a sphinx enjoying the view from the heart of things. Not depicted: a matter-of-fact local woman with a cigarette, who posed for me in front of the seated sphinxes to give them a sense of scale. The park is tiny and it takes up one little corner of a supermarket plaza parking area, and the woman walks through it every day to go shopping. She looks pleasant with a background of sphinxes, but I'm not going to use her photo without her permission, even though I really really want to.

Tall, vine-crowned sphinx photobombing me, as depicted above; my favorite sphinx is the one with the piece of supporting metal just visible through her face; bonding with a new friend.
Tuesday, October 20th, 2015
12:50 am
Story rec: "Worms of the Earth," Robert E. Howard (1932)
It's a creepy story! It's sword and sorcery! It's bogus pseudo-history! It's about a people who were driven underground, in an entirely literal way! It's about one man's quest in pursuit of a really bad idea! It's...

"Worms of the Earth," by Robert E. Howard.

(...the worms crawl in and the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout, be merry, my boys, be merry...)

I just listened to the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast's episode on this story and was so impressed I had to read it immediately. My favorite part is the "witch-woman of Dagon-moor," Atla, the demihuman hybrid. She's angry and cunning and gets exactly what she wants. She's also lonely and bitter: no human men will have her, since she's part worm, whatever the worms really are. She manipulates Bran Mak Morn into going to bed with her, so that no matter how much of her life she spends alone, she can always pat herself on the back and say she had "the kisses of a king."

It's easy for me to go on liking her despite the fact that she railroads an unwilling person into sex. I expect this is partly because society leads us to laugh that sort of thing off when it's done by women, but it's also true that boy oh boy does it work well to establish her both as a villain and as a woman who has personal conflict and is kind of a hard-luck case. I told you I wanted more women villains, and Robert E. Howard delivers.

(Is she a villain? a monster quisling? a creepy mentor? the equivalent of Circe? depends who you ask.)

She just sounds cool-looking to an impartial observer: yellow eyes, many sharp little teeth, "mottled" skin, and a body that bends in unusual ways. She's also called the "were-woman"; I think that's Howard's vague way of indicating that she's not entirely human, but it sounds misleadingly as though she turns into a woman every full moon and spends the rest of the month as a man.

Warnings: gore, dubcon sex mostly offstage, racism/white supremacist ideas if you look hard.
Saturday, October 17th, 2015
5:28 pm
There are the prettiest sights that you will ever see
lignota has referred me to "Master of Tides" by Lindsey Stirling. Go, watch. It should come as a surprise, so I'll just say: it contains a few of my favorite things. Public spectacle, harmless pranks, music, dancing, and (?)
11:53 am
Another year older! RRRGH! Another year older!
Oh, by the way, I'm thirty-four now. It feels good so far.

My present to myself is going to be a new mic. I have one fresh goal for this year: learn how to do decent recordings of myself reading aloud, and read poetry and short stories and make them available on the internet. I'm mentioning this to you all in public, to make myself accountable. This is because I've meant to try such an undertaking in the past, and always thrown it over in favor of something that seemed more urgent at the time. This time I'm actually going to go through with it. When I do, you'll be the first to know.

In prior years I've asked people to send me music, or link me to songs they've been enjoying. Same request this year. Whatever you think I would like, or whatever you're enjoying at the moment.
Tuesday, October 13th, 2015
9:27 pm
So there's this anthology called She Walks In Shadows, co-edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles. It's composed of stories about female characters, and all, as far as I'm aware, by women writers. I haven't had a chance to post about it yet, but it's coming out today, and it looks fantastic. I'm getting a copy as soon as possible.

This is all the more welcome because the one downside of my experience at Necronomicon back in August was realizing that fandom and weird fiction are sausage parties. Men and boys were in the majority at the con, and the bulk of the weird fiction I read these days (not that I read a lot of it) seems to often come from male authors and be eternally focused on male characters. I need something new and different.

You'd think that with the nature of the weird, there would BE more new-and-different stories already, but no: I get story after story following tired old tropes. "Male nerd does a thing, in a world where only men have dialogue" is popular, as is "Men are scholars and wizards and get to have personality traits, also there's one woman and she's a vamp and a sorceress." I enjoyed a story on Tor.com the other day, "The Madonna of the Abattoir" by Anne M. Pillsworth. It's an excellent story, don't get me wrong, the author can render a lot of atmosphere with only a few words, but great googly-moogly am I sick of stories where men get to have personalities outside of their sexuality, while there's one woman who is there to be a seductress.

(Also, the characters in "The Madonna of the Abattoir" don't seem to see a distinction between Catholicism and Protestantism, but then again I know a lot of people in real life who can't tell the difference either.)

I was pleased to note that the editors' original open call guidelines for submissions to this anthology specified:

"To avoid the Asenath effect (that means every character in the anthology would be Asenath Waite), we asked the authors who are contributing stories to pick a different character from a Lovecraft story. While you are not bound to these restrictions, we suggest that if you use a character from Lovecraft’s fiction, you avoid the usual suspects (Asenath and Lavinia)."

Everybody wants to write Asenath Waite! That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I love Asenath Waite so, so much. (I'd be the worst offender if I'd ever managed to complete a story for consideration.) Asenath is one of my favorite villains of all time. (Ermagahd SPOILERS.) Even in horror that has female characters, women seem to exist to be acted upon, to react while male villains or heroes act and make decisions. Women are sponges. And just as you're getting frustrated and yearning for a woman to be dynamic for good or for evil, for a woman to DO something instead of be passive or victimized or a nonentity or one-dimensional vamp, along comes Asenath Waite and gets a long way very fast with her plans.Collapse )

I beg your pardon. I quite forgot myself. This was and is a plug for She Walks In Shadows. I am a tad excited.
Sunday, October 11th, 2015
12:29 pm
a prodigious musical talent
I just found out that apparently "The Moon and the Sun" is a movie that is coming out. Watch the trailer. Just watch it. It looks terrible yet compelling. The court of Versailles appears, dressed like a costume party in half-assed RenFaire costumes and wearing eighties lipstick. There is a Headstrong Young Woman who plays the cello (I think it's a cello) and somehow knows how to ride and flirt and assert herself despite being raised in a convent. There's off-brand Eomer with his hair down looking vulnerable. There's scenery porn; there are lines that make Brotherhood of the Wolf look historically accurate.

Also, Fan Bingbing is a mermaid.

I think this movie just loves me and wants me to be happy. Trying to reserve judgement till it's out in theaters, but it's hard not to get excited.

(please let this end with Headstrong Young Woman and Glitter Mermaid swimming away together into the deep blue ocean, like Splash except with lesbians)
Saturday, October 3rd, 2015
11:13 pm
I found Emo Wilbur Whateley
And let me tell you, I am not disappointed.

(No artist credit given in the blog I found it on. Google image search tells me nothing. I hate posting art without attribution. If you have a source for this picture, please tell me so I know who to congratulate.)

I think the only reason that they both aren't wearing eyeliner here is that Brother isn't sure where to apply it.

Edited to add:

Depictions of Wilbur Whately make me happy, because they fall into two camps. Here's one camp: image by peteamachree, here.
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Here's the other camp: by jatari.
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Friday, October 2nd, 2015
7:16 am
"Davy," Edgar Pangborn
I just read Edgar Pangborn's Davy, which I've had built up for me as a stylistic masterpiece. It didn't even start to live up to my expectations. It was a mildly interesting read about a teenaged boy being awesome and having improbable amounts of sex in the far future hundreds of years after The Apockyclipse, or something. I liked the made-up slang, but I've read better, and I liked the coming-of-age story somewhat, but I've read better (including the Redwall books there).

There are two timelines: adult Davy is writing the story of his teens, and taking long breaks to let a lot of information slip about what his life is like as an exile in the wilderness with his girlfriend and BFF. Teenaged Davy steals a French horn, kills a guy more or less by accident, makes friends, becomes a disguise artist, watches helplessly as a mutant tiger kills and eats people, becomes a strolling player, experiences death and loss, has more sex and becomes a revolutionary pretty much because his girlfriend is. I found the reading experience tepid. There were some cute lines, but I don't see why people speak highly of this book. The mutant tiger never shows up again, either. It got interesting for about five pages when there was some uncertainty about the mutant tiger, but that was about it as far as narrative tension.

The ending was unusual. Depressing and pointless, but also unusual. Not spoiler-cutting because, frankly, this came out in 1965 and it's not worth preserving the surprise. Davy's girlfriend dies because he got her pregnant with a "mue" which was too big to deliver safely. Death by childbirth, so far so humdrum in a narrative. But after some time passes, one of Davy's female friends gets him to agree to have a child with her, and in the fullness of time her kid turns out to be a mue, as well. (She doesn't die, thankfully.) Davy realizes that he can't beget healthy children, has a breakdown along the lines of "I DESTROY WOMEN WITH MY MONSTER BABIES" and abandons human society in the already-isolated colony, to go on a probably-fatal expedition into unknown areas with a group of infertile adults. This is the only example I can readily recall of a male character having a huge tragic breakdown when he realizes he can't have children.

(Oh wait--there's Pwyll in Evangeline Walton's Prince of Annwn, who breaks down a little bit when he figures out that his time in the Underworld sterilized him. Pwyll at least tries to deal with his problem and keep his life together, however, whereas Davy just seems to go, "Welp, passive suicide for me.")

On the other hand, it's a downer to see female characters being destroyed by this problem, and it turns out it's also a downer to see it happen to male characters. The cumulative effect was of a smug guy having a nice time for most of a book and then doing a sudden flipflop and sinking into despair--over a problem that has literally never mattered to him till the last two pages of the book, so I found it hard to take its sudden importance seriously.

You know what, this book was like A Canticle For Leibowitz lite. There's the church empire, which worships a garbled form of Christian figure who was actually lynched for secular reasons in very recent times and who was probably Jewish and/or agnostic. There's the depopulated America ("Nuin" and "Katskil" in this case) where people live in forts and stockades, and the memory of a nuclear exchange that ended it all (all substances suspected of "containing atoms" are forbidden) and the ancient remains that are comical to us because we know their origin, and the crappy understanding of history based on the present state of things. The statue of John Harvard turns up somewhere encrusted with coats of paint from ancient student pranks. A Canticle for Leibowitz came out in 1960 and this book in 1965, so I suspect Edgar Pangborn went, "What a waste of a setting, what that world really needs is a bildungsroman," and fixed it, according to his lights.

You're given to understand that Davy happens in a timeline where there was a massive nuclear attack and reprisal that took out New York and Moscow and a lot of other cities in the US. This seems to have made the world so much warmer that it's uncomfortably like a post-apocalyptic setting someone would write today, when the bugaboo is climate change/global warming. The sea levels have risen an unknown amount, much of New York is covered by "the Hudson Sea," Cape Cod is a few pirate islands in the middle of a waste of ocean. It's so warm that no one wears pants. The basic male costume is a shirt and a "loin-rag" and that's it. Female clothing is a dress or smock, but it's not established how much coverage this provides, so probably pretty skimpy too. (Davy's outfit on the cover of the book is rendered as a pullover shirt and a pair of cutoff shorts, I assume because the illustrator knew how funny a person in a loincloth looks if you're not used to that.)

It would be an awesome cosplay for some guy to show up to a con dressed as Davy. Well, no, it would actually be rude to the other attendees because you'd be walking around in the equivalent of a G-string, and security would probably ask you to leave or put pants on. But in my head, it's a good idea. All you'd need would be to have red hair and wear a pirate shirt and a loincloth and sandals, and carry a battered French horn. Only a handful of people would get the joke but to them it would be hilarious.
Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
12:39 am
All awry
Chrome stopped working for me earlier tonight, and wouldn't un-install when I told it to. I've just finished transferring all of my logins and moving all my crap to Firefox. *eep*  At least it has an Adblock Plus extension too. I wish I was better with computers. Improvising and working from tutorials will have to do for the moment. I apologize if I owe anyone an e-mail but things are all at sixes and sevens here right now.
Monday, September 28th, 2015
8:40 pm
Spooky plays I want to see
The Davis Square Theatre is doing "The Woman in Black," in October. It's on an odd schedule because they're using it to fill in the nights between their other big autumn productions. The play will be running Monday to Wednesday, Oct. 12, 13, and 14, and then again on Oct. 26, 27 and 28. There's only one night that I can conveniently see this play: Wednesday, October 14th. Anybody want to join me? If so, please let me know here or elsewhere, and perhaps we can meet up beforehand.

The Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players are giving a production of "Ruddigore" starting Oct. 30. I have no idea what their take on the show will be like, but I have... if not a geas, then a very strong urge to go to every production of "Ruddigore" I can possibly attend, so I'll be going to this one too. The matinee on Saturday, Nov. 7th at 2:00 p.m. might be feasible for me.

Anybody knows of any other spooky/scary/eldritch plays upcoming in the greater Boston area, please sound off in the comments.


Non-spooky but essential viewing: Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," Nov. 6 through 21.

The Post-Meridian Radio Players are doing "Monster in the Mirror," a double bill of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Hyde" and "The Frankenstein Murders." October 23-24 and October 29-31. I'll try to go to this on the first weekend. 
Sunday, September 27th, 2015
9:10 pm
I know now that "it will look good on your resume" is but a worm-gnawed crust of a phrase

  1. I like to imagine the watchman from The Yellow Sign by Robert W Chambers = the poor narrator from HPL's The Outsider, a few years later>

  2. < it's his first crappy real-world job & he hates it but the King in Yellow says to get out of the Dreamlands & meet people for a change >

  3. < poor guy gets beaten up, stared at, loses a finger in a fight, tells himself he's working on his people skills & developing a thick skin >

  4. < I have protective feelings toward The Outsider, okay #zombie#takeasadsongandmakeitbetter #hpl

I only go on Twitter very occasionally, and this is what happens when I do.
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015
10:48 pm
Review: "The Thing on the Doorstep," Salem Theatre

The production runs Sept. 17 through Oct. 4, at Salem Theatre, 90 Lafayette Street, Salem, MA. Dates and more details here.

I went to see the production on its second night, with my friend G. I had no idea what to expect, never having heard of Salem Theatre till this production occurred. The space is a tiny storefront theater, with no lobby and a front door that opens from the street right into the auditorium. (There were two huge overhead heating ducts that ran right through the theater space and evidently were controlled from another business, because they switched on and off automatically throughout the play, with dull roaring sounds. It's a tribute to the performers that they carried on as if nothing was happening.)

The production was designed with a stage that filled the center of the space, and two banks of audience seats that faced each other across the set. G. and I had to walk across the living-room-interior set to get to our seats. It was uncomfortably intimate. This may have been intentional. We audience members were arranged so that we looked across the action and saw one another's reactions. The stage depicted a 1920s-era living room, with a nice old sit-up-and-beg telephone and a painting of Cotton Mather on the wall, because it's a Lovecraft story and Cotton Mather was totally at those witch trials in person (well played, set designer).

Lovecraft has a reputation for being impossible to adapt to film, so I was dubious about how well a play could work. To be honest, I am a Lovecraft fan of decades' standing, and the short story "The Thing on the Doorstep" is important to me; this makes me an unpleasable audience, because no performance of the play is ever going to live up to the production that plays in my head when I reread the story. That said, this theatrical adaptation both frustrated and intrigued me.

Let me address the bad qualities first. There was too much exposition. Tons of it. Reams of it. Even a little exposition would have been too much. But this went on for minutes at a time. The opening narration was delivered by Daniel Upton (Andy LeBlanc), standing onstage and monologuing for paragraph after paragraph of text, straight from the story. This was a poor decision on the adapters' parts. It went on for minutes on end, and I might have walked out in frustration if I hadn't been sitting in a section where I'd have had to walk across the stage to leave the theater. I'm not that rude, yet, so I stayed where I was. But gosh, it was hard to sit through. I wanted to jump up and shout, "SHOW, DON'T TELL!" Everything that was conveyed in those huge indigestible monologues could have been shown to us in dialogue and action, or omitted, without losing anything important.

Things improved after the opening, but exposition recurred throughout the play. It was all unnecessary. Audiences are not stupid. The exposition spelled out things we could have understood from dialogue and subtext, without being spoon-fed explanations. G. remarked that it seemed to come from love for the source, and I think the same; but the love was misplaced.

In any case, I'm glad I stayed. There was a lot to like about the production, and it got better as time went on. All the actors made interesting choices, and brought something to their roles that I hadn't considered before. By the way, Andy LeBlanc as Daniel Upton did well with a tough job: he had to win over the audience by starting the play with poor material, and eventually he did draw me into the story. The play didn't really take off, though, until he was allowed to be a character instead of a plot device, and interact with other people.

Oh—one more bit of adverse criticism. There were a lot of line flubs. Every performer had at least a couple. That took me out of the moment; the actors sounded like they could have used an extra week of rehearsals.

Eventually, the play brought out the tension and pathos of the story very well. The short story's impact comes from a real-life horror: watching your friend's life go off the rails, while you are helpless to interfere because you don't understand the problem until it's too late. That came across nicely on a stage.

Andy LeBlanc as Dan Upton was the backbone of the play. It was a demanding role: Upton remained onstage through both acts, as other characters came and went around him. Upton was both the exposition guy and the audience surrogate. Mr. Leblanc did a fine job of conveying the despairing, confused mood of the piece. His character had to do a lot of panicking and watching in dread, but was also the stable person on whom other characters relied. Mr. Leblanc was a strong, steady presence and made good use of body language and his expressive eyes to direct the audience's attention.

Tom Rash as Edward Derby was also good. He gave the role lots of cartoony, exaggerated enthusiasm from the first moment onstage, and I immediately bought him as a sweet and fatally naïve man-child who thinks he's sophisticated. This left a lot of room for character development, as Edward gets older, sadder, wiser, and eventually madder and deader, and Mr. Rash conveyed the decline very well. A lot of Edward Derby's lines are taken straight from the short story, which actually worked in this case. He didn't hit the notes I was expecting; I'd imagined Derby's breakdown as tears and self-pity, but Mr. Rash went more for helpless rage. “I'll kill THAT ENTITY! Him, her, it—I'll kill it with my own hands!” Edward screams in gender-normative panic.

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The play kept the story plausibly non-supernatural in the first act. I thought that was a good touch. We all know it's going to wind up as supernatural horror, but, in the beginning, the conflict is based in everyday, relatable things. Fights with overbearing family members, fear of adulthood and responsibility, and a marriage that the bystanders disapprove of. It was ordinary enough that once the supernatural elements took over they were dissonant.

There are at least two real-world horror stories that could be happening in the story, if you ignore the supernatural implications. One is that Asenath Waite is trapped in an abusive marriage (her husband locks her in the house, forbids her to talk to people), and she has no one to turn to, because people think she's a creepy witch lady. The other is that Edward Derby is trapped in an abusive marriage (he's afraid of his wife, the neighbors hear a man crying, he goes on self-destructive rampages), and he can't ask his friends for help because That Doesn't Happen To Men. The play left those options open for a while, and was the better for it.

Mind you, the twist was still obvious. At intermission I asked G. what she thought was happening, and she said,

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There's tension in saying, well, we all know what's happening; what are the good guys going to do about it? (Well, faint a lot, for starters. Lots of swooning in Lovecraft. Mr. Leblanc had to faint once, Ms. Hamilton once, and Mr. Rash was reeling, writhing, and fainting in coils. They did it beautifully.)

The play added Upton's wife and Edward Derby's father as characters. They remain offstage in the story; in the play they're thankless roles, but they added to the play because they contrast their ordinary humanity with all the weird 'n eldritch elements. Sarah Upton (Kimberly Feener) was portrayed as a strong-headed, no-nonsense suffragette, but the character was mostly there to be a foil: a feminist, to contrast with Asenath's male-supremacist self-loathing, and happily married, to contrast with whatever the hell Edward and Asenath are doing. Mr. Derby (Victor Brandelise) was there to be a Heavy Father, but his few scenes highlighted Edward's weak-willed, childish nature nicely.

I liked the subtle sadness in the scenes after Edward Derby's marriage and the death of his father. Tom Rash and Andy LeBlanc were believable as lifelong friends. Edward can't seem to smile or make eye contact, and he poses questions about what one should expect out of marriage, asking for help without admitting there's a problem. Upton thinks he's being helpful by talking about how Sarah used to kick him in bed, and they fight sometimes, but that's fine and it doesn't mean your relationship is in trouble... Meanwhile, Edward Derby is sitting staring at the floor, more lost and numb with every word. Whatever his problems are, they're far beyond anything Dan imagines. It was well-written, well-acted—just a beautiful use of implication and subtext, and aagh, I loved it.

The script included sly jokes and references to other Lovecraft stories, to troll the fans in the audience. There are casual conversations that are about Cthulhu Mythos boogeymen if you know what you're listening for. Derby returns from his honeymoon visit to the plateau of Leng and gives Dan Upton a carving of Cthulhu as a present; everyone knows there's something odd about the people of Innsmouth; characters talk about an Antarctic expedition mounted by Miskatonic University. It worked well because it was nonessential enough not to annoy the mainstream audience members.

There was one good use of exposition in the play. At the very end, the letter that delivers the Horrible Revelation was spoken aloud by Edward, standing alone in a spotlight. It actually worked as a performance, because the letter is a desperate cry to be understood and it's sparse and underwritten, as Lovecraft goes. That was the one point in the play where a monologue was appropriate. By then, I felt the play had earned it.

So, I suppose I have a few opinions about this play. Overall, I'm glad I went. Everyone involved brought a lot of creativity and invention to the table, and even where it failed for me, it was still interesting.

It deserves a bigger audience than the few people who showed up last Friday night; the production isn't getting a lot of publicity, and I can't even remember how I heard about it. And I'm the target audience! (Or so I assume, as I'm a theater nerd and a Mythos nerd.) It's the best-kept secret in supernatural theater. If you're at all into horror and can get to Salem during the next two weekends, I would recommend it. By the way, I chatted briefly with Isaiah Plovnick, the director, who says he's working on a stage adaptation of “The King in Yellow,” so I look forward to seeing more weird fiction theater from that quarter.

Edited to add: hey, nothing to do with the play, but I was just checking a reference and found this painting of Asenath by Paco Rico Torres. What do you think--too overtly evil? I like it.

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