Jennifer Rumberg's new play in its world premiere from WildClaw Theatre is just as much family drama as it is gory horror. Directed by Christopher M. Walsh, the new script tells the story of a deranged family that may be more familiar to us than we'd like to admit. While not all of the revelations are truly surprising, the absolute commitment from the talented team at WildClaw and a stunning performance from Allison Cain make this horror play one to see.
An estranged daughter (Violet, played by Krista D'Agostino) returns home to try and rescue her sister (Kathryn Acosta) from their abusive mother obsessed with the death of her husband 17 years prior, and willing to do anything to bring him back. While others have referred to the play as a horror-comedy, I found the laughs few and far between. Moira Begale (as Sally) steals every hilarious moment she is in, but Mandy Walsh’s Martha (Violet’s coworker) never seems to exist in the same world as the other characters.
The play could certainly use some trimming. As it currently sits, it runs almost two full hours without an intermission. The lack of break works greatly for this type of theatre, but once you pass 95 minutes, you're asking quite a bit of your audience (and their bladders). The opening scenes are acted with fierce energy, and the staging by Walsh sees the actors using every exciting inch of the incredible set, designed masterfully by John Ross Wilson. However, the production loses steam in the middle - Rumberg leaves the audience hanging just a bit too long, and some of the momentum leading towards the finale is lost.
That being said, you will be spooked, and there will be blood. Allison Cain is a spectacular villain - her every move is calculated manipulation. She is creepy but never campy, and this is truly her play. There are quiet, fearful moments milked to perfection, and I'd be lying if I wasn't looking behind me on my walk home. Night in Alachua County is an engrossing piece of horror theatre presented by Chicago's premiere horror theatre company, featuring an ensemble of strong women and a script by a female playwright. Catch it before it's gone!
Review by Jason Berger
Night in Alachua County runs through October 7th at The Den Theatre. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.