Prepare to get your spine tingled.
Even though the latest University Playhouse production is called “Cthulhu: A Puppet Play,” the eerie, downright scary multimedia theatrical presentation is definitely not for kids.
Inspired by the the writings of horrormeister H.P. Lovecraft, playwrights Kelly Switzer and Michael Switzer have created a macabre and terrifying tale utilizing ingenious life-size puppets, film and an ominous percussive score.
Bits of dark humor occur courtesy of messages from “The Internet” and with the inclusion of a familiar-looking TV show called “Storage Pickers,” where a pair of Southern bumpkins peddle a strange statue. Immediately falling under the spell of the oddly shaped curiosity, Professor Derleth (Jeremy Rodriguez) barters with the pickers and attains the tentacled figure.
“It seems to be made of a sandstone type material, but is much, much harder,” Derleth remarks. While the statue’s surface appears to be smooth, he discovers that it has the feel of slimy scales. He begins to research his acquisition and comes across the name Cthulhu, an ancient deity with scores of cult-like followers. Eventually, the professor becomes obsessed with the odd “monstrosity” which haunts him and begins to overtake his dreams. Unable to understand its origin, he pores over voluminous texts, ultimately coming to the conclusion that the ungodly Cthulhu brings a curse to its owner.
Directed by Kelly Switzer and Chelsea Pearce, “Cthulhu: A Puppet Play” entertains, fascinates and scares the bejesus out of the audience who become riveted by the increasingly desperate situation of the professor’s nightmarish new reality.
Bree Burns designed the striking puppets including Professor Derleth (Jeremy Rodriguez), New Orleans police Detective Pembleton (Korbin Ferguson), who the professor refers to as “a figure out of a gumshoe novella,” Derlech’s hair-tossing blond niece Kelsey (Brittany Lindsey) and human-faced rat (Mackenzie Douglas). Other voice cast members and shadow puppeteers include Chelsea Pearce, Erica Carnley, Aaron Gibson and Brandi McKinney.
Technical director and scenic designer Michael G. Knight’s rock-walled set with burning candles and flickering fireplace emanates a sinister aura, the perfect locale for Professor Derleth’s rendezvous with terror.
Musical director Levi Nichols uses a xylophone, keyboard and several percussion instruments to accompany the professor’s horrifying descent.
Master electrician and lighting designer Ben Kennedy gets kudos for a scene where Derletch watches the walls change shape and separate. Kati Barrett is the sound and graphics designer, and Jace Sturgill the properties designer.
“Cthulhu: A Puppet Play” will continue in the Black Box Studio Theater at the Texas A&M-Commerce University Playhouse today - Sat. Nov. 22 at 8 p.m and Sun. at 3 p.m. and at 8 p.m.
For ticket information contact the University Box Office at 903-886-5900 or online at email@example.com.
Reese is entertainment writer for the Herald-Banner.