Ten appropriately spooky Toronto theatrical productions to check out this Halloween season. (And none of them are Rocky Horror.)
In parlour rooms and diners, in parks and on stage, spooky, scary, and downright silly theatre befitting the Halloween season is cropping up all over town. Some of it is funny, some of it is unsettling, all of it intends to be engrossing and entertaining. Rather than just see one of the several local productions of The Rocky Horror Show again (which we’ll probably do, too) consider checking out one of the following 10 shows, all of which will be playing during the lead-up to Halloween and beyond…the grave.
Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)
To October 27 at 8 p.m. (no show Mondays), Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m. matinees, Wednesday 1:30 p.m. matinee
In Yukonstyle, Canadian Stage’s second of two Toronto premieres of new plays by Quebecois playwright Sarah Berthiaume, men and women in Whitehorse deal with real-life horrors unfolding in the news. Garin (Ryan Cunningham) is consumed by details of Robert Pickton’s serial killings as they come to light. His roommate, co-worker, and crush Yuko (Grace Lynn Kung) brings home hitchhiker Kate (Kate Corbett), a naive girl with a serial killer obsession, whose one-night crash becomes a tension-filled stay. Garin suspects his father Pops (Francois Klanfer) is withholding information that could link his mother Rose’s disappearance when he was a toddler to Pickton’s killing spree.
Both Yuko and Kate have dark secrets that have led them to the remote north. Pops’ secrets, meanwhile, manifest in delirium tremens visions of dark ravens. The characters often speak in direct address to the audience, narrating their own conflicts in dispassionate and poetic third-person monologues. Meanwhile, the northern lights wash above them, enveloping the proceedings in a hallucinatory and sometimes nightmarish haze. You could call this drama a ghost story, with ghosts of trauma that need to be addressed. Its slow burn is unsettling—though, unlike much Halloween fare, there’s a possibility of a happy ending.
Night Of The Living Dead Live
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
To October 27 (no show Mondays), various times (check website for details)
The stage adaptation of George Romero’s classic zombie film—the film that started the undead genre, really—is back, in all its monochromatic glory. Romero, who co-produced the play, will once again appear at several talk-backs during this remount—which opened with a lucky incident: a power failure. For most shows, a power cut would mean disaster, but for the Living Dead cast, mostly Second City alumni, it was an opportunity. Recalling the opening night of Evil Dead The Musical, which famously finished its first show in the parking lot during the 2003 blackout, Living Dead‘s actors finished the second act of their opening illuminated by audience cell phones and (eventually) work lights, improvising around the missing technical cues.
Birth of Frankenstein
St. Luke’s United Church (355 Sherbourne Street)
October 22 at 8 p.m. (PWYC Preview)
October 23 to November 3 at 8 p.m. (no show Monday October 28)
Litmus Theatre returns with an “origin” story for one of literature’s most famous monsters. One spooky night in a villa in Switzerland, an all-star group of writers—Mary Shelley, Percy Shelly, Lord Byron, and John Polidori—challenged each other to write tales of horror. For this show, set in a gothic parlour room in one of Toronto’s oldest churches, the cast will recreate the conditions and the dream that led to the creation of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster. Litmus Theatre likes its horror intimate, so only forty people at a time will be able to witness the raising of Mary Shelley’s ghost.
George Street Diner (129 George Street)
October 25-26 at 7 p.m.
$50 (includes dinner and show)
RealSpace Theatre’s Dine Her, a zombie-comedy dinner-theatre show staged in an actual diner, proved so popular back in September that it’s back, now, for a short Halloween run, with an expanded menu. Diner owner Ash Farrelly is even part of the show, in which a date between a man (Bruce Hunter, the writer of the show) and woman (Erica Wood) takes a unexpected and ghoulish turn.
The show originally scheduled for October 24, 2013, has been cancelled.
You Can Sleep When You’re Dead
Historic Campbell House (160 Queen Street West)
October 24-31 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
$25 (Sunday to Wednesday), $35 (Thursday to Saturday)
This is one historical walking tour of The Campbell House you won’t see on a tourism brochure. Theatre Lab has recruited five playwrights (including Graham Isador and Theatre Brouhaha’s Kat Sandler) to contribute scenes of death, violence, and mourning—all to fill the house with a ghostly immersive experience.
The StoreFront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
October 24-November 9 at 8 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. matinee
$20 ($5 off when in costume on October 31)
These days, it seems impossible to throw a stick at any Toronto theatre and not hit Kat Sandler, or one of her tireless Theatre Brouhaha crewmates. There was We are the Bomb at the 2013 Fringe Festival, Delicacy at SummerWorks (which nabbed The Spotlight Award for the young playwright), not to mention last year’s Fringe hit Help Yourself, and a few more independent productions in between. Naturally, Brouhaha is back for Halloween, which happens to be the perfect time to crank Sandler’s signature dry-with-a-twist sense of humour to the max. All we know about her latest, Sucker, is that it involves a wannabe Rabbi that doesn’t believe in God, and his sister who believes she’s a vampire. But with Sandler in the director’s seat and a cast that includes Jessica Moss, Andy Trithardt, and Astrid van Wieren, we don’t really need to know much more.
Evil Dead The Musical
Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)
October 24-December 22 at 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. (no show Mondays), Sunday 3 p.m. matinee
One of Toronto’s most popular theatrical exports of the last decade returns for a lengthy, blood-splattered run, all the way to Christmas. The splatter zone is back, and the same goes for musical gems like All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons. Most excitingly, Ryan Ward, who originated the role of zero-to-hero demon slayer Ash here in Toronto, is back again, wielding his chainsaw and boomstick.
Undisclosed Toronto location, revealed 24 hours in advance
October 25 at 7 p.m., 11 p.m.
October 26 at 2 p.m., 7 p.m.
$60, $40 (arts Workers/under 30)
If you’re a fan of horror on screen as well as right in your face, then 360 Screenings should be on your radar. Since the film/theatre hybrid opened in Toronto in May 2012, it has immersed sold-out audiences in the worlds of Ghost, Amélie, and Fight Club, to name a few examples. This October, the company diving right into “one of the most frightening horror movies of all time,” said co-founder Ned Loach in a press release. Over four consecutive performances (the most so far for 360 Screenings), horror-seekers will likely get the Halloween experience of their teenage dreams, with a cash bar open all night. For a better idea of what to expect, check out the trailer from the 360 screening of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Night of Dread
Clay and Paper Theatre
Dufferin Grove Park (875 Dufferin Street)
October 26, 4 to 7:30 p.m.
PWYC ($10 suggested)
For something completely different, Clay and Paper Theatre is back again with its annual Night of Dread parade around Dufferin Grove Park. Created in various workshops programmed throughout the week, the big event on Saturday night features handmade puppets and floats representing the biggest fears of Torontonians young and old (one this year looks to be a giant Stephen Harper head). Not only does a parade of these puppets make for a stunning visual, but the party afterward makes sure those fears stay humourous, rather than horrifying.
The Nefarious Bed and Breakfast
Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
October 29-November 9 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. matinee
To celebrate five years of being the “geekiest theatre company in Toronto” (their words), Monkeyman Productions is taking its audiences to a relaxing bed and breakfast in Toronto. The hosts are retired supervillain Dr. Notto Nefarious, his wife Margot, and his henchman Half-Ape. The guests are superheros Mr. and Mrs. Try (also retired). Throw in some newlyweds and a mysterious mailman, and you have the perfect combination of silly, spooky comedy for Halloween enthusiasts that want more fun than fright.