For several years now, I have counted Altadena’s Wicked Lit among my absolute favorite Halloween-time immersive theater events in Southern California. The annual production, launched a decade ago, has taken over Southern California’s Mountain View Mausoleum (and previously Greystone Mansion and Millennium Biltmore Hotel) to stage reinterpreted horror stories as living, breathing, experiences.
Wicked Lit attendees follow actors from scene to scene as they move through real space, and though the show isn’t interactive in the usual sense we consider immersive theater, characters will occasionally address the audience. Essentially upon stepping into the mausoleum, you become part of a silent Greek chorus, watching and judging the actions and stories you see before you, without input of your own.
This year, guests are guided around the interior of the space by two hosts, representing tour guides who point out some of Mountain View’s more interesting historical tidbits along the way. In previous seasons, the grounds surrounding the imposing building and the graveyard across the street have also been included in the show and incorporated into scenes, but the 2018 iteration of Wicked Lit is constrained entirely within the walls of the mausoleum itself. I believe this newly-imposed restriction has something to do with an unrelated movie being shot outside, and its impact on the program is immediately noticeable.
Gone is the outdoor “lobby” area that formerly hosted an interstitial meta-narrative, a gathering point for groups in-between the individual plays that make up Wicked Lit as a whole. Instead, guests are invited to wander the mausoleum halls (but not too far) admiring the architecture and ornamentation until their performances begin. This drastic difference sets the stage for a much smaller-scale presentation this time around, though the quality of the material remains entertaining and compelling.
Down from three individual tales to two (and running only ninety minutes this year as opposed to the usual three hours) Wicked Lit 2018 is comprised of Charles Dickens’ The Chimes: A Goblin Story— basically a riff on the same premise as his iconic A Christmas Carol– and Teig O’Kane and the Corpse, adapted from a story by Welsh-English writer Ernest Rhys.
Despite the proportions of Wicked Lit being considerably more constricted this Halloween season, I’m very pleased to report that the considerable talent involved in bringing the show to life has remained intact. Particular attention should be drawn to actors Richard Large (as Toby Veck in The Chimes) and Kevin Dulude (The Corpse in The Corpse) for delivering such authenticity and compassion to their performances, but all the other leads and supporting cast members are uniformly excellent across the board.
In addition to the confined spaces, Wicked Lit‘s special effects also feel more subdued this year, and though I missed seeing the company’s trademark jaw-dropping puppeteering work and spectacular tree-shaking scares in the show, I was able to enjoy and appreciate a quieter, more atmospherically eerie entry in what continues to be one of my most treasured Halloween activities in the greater Los Angeles area.
Wicked Lit: The Chimes and The Corpse runs on select nights from now through November 10, though most performances are already sold out. For more information be sure to visit Unbound Productions’ official website.
Mike has been fascinated by theme parks and Disney all his life. He has worked in the entertainment journalism field since 2015, after spending a decade as a film projectionist at one of Hollywood’s most prestigious movie theaters. He resides in Burbank, California with his wife and cat.