Fringe Theater in Seattle

Last night, Tim and I went to see the last performance of the premier production, “Shoggoths on the Veldt,” of a new theater company in Seattle, The Rogues Gallery.

shoggoths_11_13

It was one of the most entertaining plays I have seen in a long time.

The script was delightful, and you didn’t (as I am not) have to be well versed in all things Lovecraftian.

With minimal stage setting and props and some really effective lighting, the production showed that you don’t need a lot of money to create something evocative and clever and entertaining.

The play follows the recently-horribly-killed Lord Melford Pumbleshire (Cody Smith) as he haunts his fiancee, Lady Euphonia Riggstone (Jennifer Crooks). Pumbleshire is in a bad way, as ghosts go, in that he can’t remember anything for more than 30 minutes. After that span, he snaps back to memories of right before his death.

Riggstone charters an expedition to “Deepest Darkest Africa” to return the cursed statue to the dread temple — there’s a volcano and lava, because, of course there is.

Not only does the play manage to take us on trains, boats, and overland, convincingly and with real energy, but it brings out the lesser-known Mythos creations of Lovecraft, like Tim’s favorite, Nyarlathotep (you know, the Crawling Chaos and all that), with only a visual reference to the big C.

And there are giant tentacles. (I bet costume designer Julie Evanovich will get a kick out of including that on her resume.)

Back in the 1990s, there were so many small theater companies operating on limited budgets. One of the most hilariously memorable (memorably hilarious?) productions was “Plan 9 from Outer Space: The Musical.”

Besides ticket prices to fringe theater productions being significantly more affordable than those at better established, more mainstream outfits, the productions themselves were often more original, more quirky, more daring. And it was often a treat to see how creative and innovative the actors and technicians could be within their budgetary constraints.

Over the years, however, many of these companies — whose names I cannot now remember — closed their doors, unable to make ends meet.

Those that survived, such as Theater Schmeater, have perhaps lost a little bit of their edge. And the perennially popular holiday show “Ham for the Holidays” — though as irreverent and satirical as ever — outgrew its humble beginnings at the Theatre Off Jackson and now is presented at a larger space at ACT.

So it was a distinct pleasure to see last night such an auspicious launch of a new small theater company.

So, hats off to The Rogues Gallery, and best of luck. I look forward to your next show!

 

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