Review: Madhouse Variations (Eldritch Theatre)

By Adelina Fabiano

Mysteries and Mayhem at Toronto’s Theatre Centre

If you are looking for a show to set you in the mood for this year’s upcoming Halloween, then Madhouse Variations, produced by Eldritch theatre at the Theatre Centre is the one to see. Inspired by stories from three of Horror’s great writing masters: H.P. Lovecraft, E.T.A. Hoffman and Algernon Blackwood, this trilogy of terror will do more than just ignite the senses!

Set in the suburb of Kobol Hollow in the dreary Ravenscrag Asylum, two inmates re-enact the lives and histories of three infamous patients uncovering the evil power of the “Necronomicon.” Highly creative, superbly written, and brilliantly performed, puppet theatre has taken on a whole new meaning!

I have been to one other puppet show in my life. The genre has just never appealed to me as much, until now. Eric Woolfe, immensely talented, not only wrote the clever script, but performed multiple roles and designed the puppets, evidently bringing to life his passion, knowledge and research on this type of genre.

The show opens with two mentally deranged patients wandering the entire theatre silently gazing outwardly into the audience. After infinite moments of silence, we are stunned by a shocking alarm. It is here that the two begin to tell their story.

Eric Woolfe’s draws from many resources of literature and film adding his own perspective and humour to the plot. There had to be over 20 puppets, each manipulated between Woolfe and actress Kimwun Perehinec. Ranging from rod puppets (some 8 feet tall) hand puppets, glove puppets, to creepy masks, each was so whimsically created.

Although the cast was made up of only Eric Woolfe and Kimwun Perehinec, their physical and vocal manipulation of each puppet was so well rehearsed and crafted, I was easily convinced by these inanimate objects that had taken a life of their own.

Aside from the hilarious looking “mad doctor” hand puppets, I loved the character of the professor which was a ventriloquist life size puppet manipulated by Woolfe. The red ribbons of cloth representing human guts gushing out of each puppet as they met their demise, was quite comical.

Woolfe and Perenhinec were a dynamic duo in this production. I thoroughly enjoyed the scene between the two of them where Perenhinec plays the baby and Woolfe plays the role of the Nanny.

Christine Brubaker’s direction was smooth and detailed. The use of the entire theatre space was well thought out as actors moved from the upper level, to the lower level, and in and around the theatre.

The dark, grey, and bare-walled set was cold and sterile, typical of what you’d expect in an asylum. Unexpected sounds often overtook the asylum. At the beginning and end of the show, the character of Perenhinec even creates sound effects using different objects.

A truly fresh, unique and creative piece of puppet theatre combined with an alluring narrative, Madhouse Variations has enough stimuli for any imagination who dares to venture to the world of madness.

Details:

Madhouse Variations will be playing at the Theatre Centre located at 1087 Queen Street West from October 23-November 7, 2010. The show runs Tuesdays through Sunday at 8pm with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. There is a Halloween special on October 30th at 10:30pm FOR $13.13

-Ticket prices range: Previews October 23-24 $15, Tues-Thurs $20 and Friday and Saturday $25.

-For tickets and information call 416-538-0988 or by visiting www.eldritchtheatre.ca or www.theatrecentre.org.

Photograph of Kimwun Perehinec and Eric Woolfe taken by Dawn Weaver