A Night of Improvised Horror with Redrum Reunion

redrumThe market for frightening, Halloween-related theme events is at its seasonal peak and Providence, especially, affords many opportunities for experiential adventures beyond the standard haunted corn maze parking lots. Walking along Benefit Street alone can be a Lovecraft-themed adventure, as evidenced by the ambitious Executor that Theater of Thought delivered a couple of years back. One of Executor’s primary elements, Melissa Bowler, has crafted a similar experience with Providence Improv Guild’s Redrum Reunion, set in and throughout the Southside Cultural Center on Broad Street.

Audience members are invited into the main hall at the Cultural Center and given the briefest of synopses – we are to be silent witnesses to an extracurricular high school reunion event where several former classmates break into the (now abandoned) site of their prom. As the story goes, two former classmates were murdered at that prom and the boozy janitor (also now deceased) was the prime suspect. Those plot points are revealed in more or less standard theatrical format as we’re seated, but there is a Clue-like twist: one audience member is summoned beforehand to pick a number that corresponds to one of the rotating cast of performers. That performer, known only to themselves, is that evening’s actual culprit. The setup is eerie enough after spending time wandering around the empty hall wondering what is happening and how things are supposed to transpire. However, following the initial exposition (which is a little choppy, given the improvised nature of the interactions), the actors break off in different directions, leaving the audience to follow whatever story arc they choose. The action fills most corners of the Cultural Center, including some that OSHA may or may not be aware of, as we witness improvised moments that build the story of what actually happened on that fateful night. Again, given the nature of improv, your experience can range from hilarious to touching, flat to downright terrifying and everywhere in between. There are backstories and scripted moments, but each performer is trying to figure out everything along with the audience, which ultimately serves to build a palpable tension as we wind our way through basement corridors and up crumbling stairwells.

The creepiness of it all is worth the price of admission and the elements that we look for in more traditional haunted house-style events are certainly present. Midway through, the audience is genuinely apprehensive to turn the next corner and the screams that erupt are not always from the performers. However, much like the aforementioned Executor, the excellent concept outpaces the delivery at times. By show’s end, which features a beautifully staged tableau that wraps up events nicely, we’re left feeling that there were some missed opportunities. Given the space and an audience in the palm of their hands, the scare factor from P.I.G. and the show is relatively light and our expectations and imaginations outpace the actual horror. For some, that may be enough and the thrills will certainly be in direct proportion to how jaded your fellow audience members may be. Redrum Reunion is a delightful tease, a deftly delivered, ghoulish improv show that simply leaves you wanting more.

Wanting more may be P.I.G.’s point, though. It would take repeated viewings to follow all the characters and, given the ever-changing endings, some nights may carry more tension than others. Redrum Reunion deserves to be seen for its concept alone, and some of the performances (Bowler in particular) can be quite compelling. Leave your cynicism at the door and simply enjoy the experience. And, as October 31st nears, the setting alone may provide more than even its authors intended.

Redrum Reunion- PIG’s Halloween Show, runs through October 31st .All performances at 8 pm. Must be able to climb stairs and handle a fair amount of movement throughout the Southside Cultural Center building. Tickets can be purchased at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/466809. Parental discretion advised. 

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