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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.

Playwright: Ray Bradbury, adapted from his novel
Director: Alan Neal Hubbs

Cast: Ray Bradbury (The Prologue), Grady Hutt (Will Halloway), J. Skylar Testa (Jim Nightshade), Cris Capen (Lightning Rod Salesman), Jay Gerber (Mr. Halloway), David Polcyn (Tetley and Cooger), Bruno Marcotulli (Croscetti), Mark Aaron (Dark), Priscilla Allen (Miss Foley), Robin Poley (Mrs. Halloway), Laura Raynor (Jim's Mom), Gudrun Giddings (Icewoman), Kacey Camp (Jongleur), Darian Weiss (Robert), Howard D. W Yates (Policeman), Carlie Westerman, Rachel Lane (A Little Girl), Felisa Kazen (Dust Witch), Douglas R. Clayton (Roustabout), Patrick Stone (Cooger's Carousel Shadow).
Set Design: John Edw. Blankenchip
Lighting Design: Chuck Wilcox
Costume Design: Nadine D. Parkos, Gelareh Khalioun
Running Time: Two hours with one intermission
Running Dates: October 1-November 8, 2003
Where: Edgemar Center For The Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on October 18..
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