Not content to be confined to slasher flicks and B-movies, creepy characters are roaming the stage this month. If you’re looking to see something ghoulish in-person rather than onscreen, consider these frightfully scary theatrical offerings.
The Mystery of Irma Vep, WaterTower Theatre
September 28-October 21
Charles Ludlam’s spoof of Victorian melodrama and classic horror films blends high camp with spine-tingling scares. As the mysterious former mistress of Mandecrest Manor, Irma Vep retains her otherworldly hold on those who still dwell there. That includes her husband, Edgar; her maid, Jane; her handyman, Nicodemus; and the new Mrs. Hillcrest, Lady Enid. It also includes a possible werewolf, vampire, mummified Egyptian princess and cloaked figure held prisoner behind the bookcase. All these characters are played by only two actors (Bryan T. Donovan and Regan Adair), who switch personalities and genders faster than you can say, “I wonder what 'Irma Vep' might stand for?”
Zombie Prom, Runway Theatre
Boy meets girl. Girl’s parents forbid the teenage romance. Boy commits suicide by hurling himself into a nuclear power plant. Girl is sad. Boy comes back from the dead. Everyone goes to prom. What’s not to love about this? The 1993 musical played London and Off-Broadway before being turned into a short film where RuPaul played the über-strict principal. Creepy, campy and entirely aware of its own silliness, Zombie Prom gives high school a high dose of deadly comedy.
Curse of the Mummy, Pocket Sandwich Theatre
October 5-November 17
In good old-fashioned panto tradition, audience members of all ages are invited to boo, hiss and throw popcorn at the stage while a mummy, understandably annoyed at being brought back to life, wreaks havoc on a 1930s English town. Seriously, haven’t we learned not to raise the dead? Or at least not to recite ancient incantations while poking around cursed Egyptian tombs? Everyone’s always so surprised when it turns out badly.
William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead, Drag Strip Courage
His poetry may seem immortal, but William Shakespeare also knows a thing or two about the undead. Billed as “a true and accurate account of the Elizabethan zombie plague,” this farce takes a little of Shakespeare in Love — the Bard’s newest play is opening at The Globe — and a little of The Walking Dead — a plague-ridden madman bites the costumer, setting off an epidemic — and adds in Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers seeking refuge from the affliction because, why not? To honor this play’s Southwest premiere, audience members are encouraged to attend wearing their zombie finest.
Ghost-Writer, Circle Theatre
October 11-November 10
He dies mid-sentence, but that doesn’t stop novelist Franklin Woolsey from continuing his work, thanks to devoted secretary Myra, who claims to be taking dictation directly from the deceased writer. Can she really communicate with her beloved boss, or is she just seizing the spotlight for herself? And how does Franklin’s widow feel about all this? As such classics as Poltergeist and Ghost Dad have shown, being a ghost means being able to cause a little mischief. You can’t help but wonder if all his ghostly pals are saying, “Really, Frank? You can float objects across the room, and you’re worried about placing a hyphen correctly?”
The Woman in Black, Onstage in Bedford
October 19-November 4
Daniel Radcliffe shed his Harry Potter persona to star in the lukewarm film adaptation of this seriously terrifying two-man play. While the movie hurled scares and shrieks every five minutes, the play relies on tension and preys on your imagination, proving it’s what you don’t see that’s scariest. It’s been running continuously in London’s West End since 1989, and I’m not afraid to admit I almost hid under my seat when I saw it. And that was the matinee.