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|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Something Wicked This Way Comes
By Laura Hitchcock
Hallowe'en is the national holiday of Los Angeles. Even UCLA librarians show up in costume and theatres reach into their grab bags for something celebratory. The year I came down here last Vincent Price did a one-man show of the works of Edgar Allen Poe.
This year it's the champion of October, Ray Bradbury, who has adapted his novel Something Wicked This Way Comesfor the stage. Bradbury, who told me he has been "writing stories 50 years, writing plays 60." still shows up. He's on a walker but exuberant, to deliver the prologue for the play that's an ode to the theater and what he calls a refuge from screenwriting.
Adapted from an early novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes could be considered a counterpoint to Dandelion Wine, Bradbury's idyllic tribute to small town childhood. It's about two boys, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, on the cusp of adolescence when temptation in the form of an evil and seductive carnival enters their lives. The Pandemonium Shadow Show (which lent its name to Bradbury's Pandemonium Theatre Company), run by Mr. Dark, features a carousel that can make you older or younger. Jim yearns to be a few years older. Will's 54-year-old father, who works at the library, would love to be a few years younger.
Bradbury objectifies some of his most mesmerizing values: the enchantment of the Most Beautiful Woman in the World; the hypnotic power of The Dust Witch, who can persuade your heart to stop; and the conflict between Will, who accepts his age, and Jim, whose father has disappeared and who yearns to be a grown-up in control of his life. The struggle between the black hats and the white hats continues with Will's father, Charles, as the unexpected white hat champion.
The second act picks up pace and suspense, as darkness and temptation bear down on Will and Jim. It's a brilliant and vivid metaphor, more so in the book than in the play, where Bradbury's lyricism shines. The author has done a good job in defining the book for the stage, though he holds on to a few too many of his favorite words.
Alan Neal Hubbs, who first directed Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles in 1970, finds the mystery and theatricality in the play, aided by Jay Gerber's strong central performance as Mr. Halloway. Chuck Wilcox's shadowy lighting design is perfect, nicely complementing John Edward Blankenchip's organic set and the colorful detailed costumes of Nadine D. Parkos and Gelareh Khalioun.
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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