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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, February 24

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Theatre Sun Sep 27 2009

Putting the Fun Back In Fear

Fear is a fantastic hour of anxiety. The Neo-Futurists' season opener dredges up unease, tension, apprehension and concern but does it in such an interesting and well-executed way that even the most lily-livered of ticket holders will love the thrill.

Creator and curator Noelle Krimm -- and the countless people involved in the production -- do great work to "put the fun back into being completely creeped out." Tours of about 20 are led from room to haunted room of The Neo-Futurarium, from a forlorn boudoir to a raving slaughterhouse. There are three hosts who lead the tours, which start at set times throughout the night. Sophie Ostlund plays up tragic honesty as a gauze-masked, makeup-smeared bride, and Aimee McKay and Rawson Vint put their own spins on human affliction.

Fear leads the audience through the world of Edgar Allen Poe, but doesn't rest on "gotcha" gimmicks to make the audience squirm. Its horror profile, from anthropomorphized pigs to frigid rooms and unsettling illuminations, is layer upon layer of madness and sin and horror.

Poe's words run through the building like a ribbon of influence rather than adaptation, and nothing's too bang on. Instead of The Raven, for example, a puppetry collaboration between Dan Kerr-Hobert, Bernie McGovern and Chip Davis is set to The Conqueror Worm, a title that might perk the ears of a Hellboy fan but doesn't make it into most textbooks. Pieces aligned with Poe's more established work, like Mindy Meyers' take on The Bells, are less of a play-by-play and more an exploitation of mood using disturbing dance and aggressive sound.

Each room has its own creator, production team and cast, and Fear enlists an entire team of "ambiance coordinators" to give the whole space an unearthly feel. There's no fourth wall; there are four walls that trap the audience inside. Like a regular haunted house, sinister characters skulk about, but don't jump out for a cheap scare. Instead they linger like window dressing, languidly reaching out to touch someone.

The real standout of the show is The Fall Of the House Of Usher, a Fool Machine Collective Production created by John Pierson. It's set in a cold, off-kilter room where exuberant suits sporting garish, glowing eyeballs tap into the "intolerable agitation of the soul." The group plays with mirth and mania, using techtronic choreography and a high-energy ringmaster who pipes in real information about Poe and his inspirations - add it to the curriculum and high school students will never forget that "life and death for Poe were inexplicably linked."

The show runs about an hour, about as much aggressive rattling as most people can take, and each scene lasts about as long as it needs to. When a whisper of comfort returns the audience is swept into a new round of disconcertion, where another group waits with a bevy of carefully planned details meant to put people right back on the edge.

Fear is smart and well crafted and eerie and sinister and chilling. It's a perfect show for the Halloween season, but could stand on its own any time of the year. Great theater should make your palms sweat.

Fear goes up at 7:30pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 31 at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors with IDs.) On Thursdays, tickets are "pay what you can." Call The Neo-Futurist Hotline at 773-275-5255 or visit

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Randy / September 27, 2009 11:28 PM

I will have to catch a Thursday show. Unemployed and not proud of it.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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