In Concert

Set in the 18th century French countryside, First Folio Theatre vividly brings to life Joseph Zettelmaier’s “The Man-Beast”, a romantic, yet frightening, tale just in time for the Halloween season. The final installment of Zettelmaier’s horror trilogy, “The Man-Beast” follows first works “The Gravedigger” and “Dr. Seward’s Dracula” and, staying true to form, steadily builds in suspense from its first scene to the story’s climactic ending. Staged ever so appropriately inside the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook, theatre goers are in for a spooky treat that is as sexy as it is haunting.

When a werewolf ravages the countryside, no one is safe. A trail of blood leaves local villagers dead along with an escalating amount of livestock. It is then that King Louis XVI puts a bounty on the beast in the hopes the threat can be eliminated once and for all. The villagers believe the beast to be Loup-Garou, the legendary werewolf who has terrorized the countryside in the past.

The story begins when trapper Jean Chastel bangs on the door of Virginia Allard. He is hurt having suffered a bite from the beast that he believes he has killed, though the animal seems to have vanished. Allard lives alone in the forest, her house decorated with dead animals that she herself had stuffed, her kitchen shelves cluttered with bottles of herbs, wood burns in her fireplace creating a flickering glow throughout the room. The “Witch of the Woods” as she jokingly calls herself is not one to take chances as she carries a large hunting knife on her person.

After Allard tends to Chastel’s wounds we see a tumultuous relationship between the two develop, as well as a plan to cash in on the large reward. But both are cautious and struggle to trust each other, having been betrayed in the past. We wonder if either will hold true to their word.

Filled with mystery, suspense and mounting sexual tension, “The Man-Beast” works well thanks to its powerful cast of two, Elizabeth Laidlaw as Virginia Allard and Aaron Christensen as Jean Chastel. Laidlaw, whose theatre credits include Steppenwolf, The Goodman and many others, is nothing short of sensational offering several scenes filled with an electricity that would be hard to match. Laidlaw’s counterpart, Christensen, also puts forth a fierce performance and the chemistry between the two is undeniable. Hayley Rice skillfully directs this classic piece, strategically getting the most in the play’s finishing touches from a talented artistic team that includes Angela Weber Miller (Scenic Design), Christopher Kriz (Sound Design), Rachel Lambert (Costume Design) Vivian Knouse (Properties Design), Rachel Flesher (Violence Design) and Julia Zayas-Melendez (Stage Manager).

Played with much ferocity and passion, the performances we get from Laidlaw and Christensen are alone well worth the price of admission. When you add a story that is sure to engage even the most casual of horror fans from beginning to end and a creative set that visually takes us miles away and so easily nudges our imagination in just the right way, we are presented with a production that has all the ingredients needed to promise a thoroughly entertaining theatrical Halloween event.

Highly recommended. *Parental discretion is advised due to a handful of racy scenes.

First Folio’s “The Man-Beast” is being performed at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook through November 5th. For tickets and/or more production information, visit www.firstfolio.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the World Premiere of Joseph Zettelmaier’s THE MAN-BEAST, previewing October 4-6, opening October 7 and running through November 5, 2017. A tale like none other, THE MAN-BEAST gives audiences the chance to fall back in time and experience the history and horror of French monsters and fear in a timely production perfect for the crisp, shadowed nights of a Midwestern fall.
 
From the playwright who wrote The Gravedigger and Dr. Seward’s Dracula, comes the final installment of his classic horror trilogy, a werewolf tale straight out of history. A dangerously romantic werewolf tale set in the 18th century French countryside, THE MAN-BEAST tells the tale of a mysterious wild animal ravaging the livestock and citizenry, leaving behind a trail of blood and death. When Louis XVI puts a bounty on the animal, the mystery and horror only deepen. No one has been able to trap the perpetrator, but the citizens have seen the gory results of its savage attacks and suspect that it’s a Loup-Garou, the savage werewolf of French legend.
 
THE MAN-BEAST, written by Joseph Zettelmaier and directed by Hayley Rice, features Elizabeth Laidlaw as Virginie Allard and Aaron Christensen as Jean Chastel. The artistic team includes Scenic Design by Angela Weber Miller, Lighting Design by Michael McNamara, Original Music and Sound Design by Christopher Kriz, Costume Design by Rachel Lambert, Properties Design by Vivian Knouse, Violence Design by Rachel Flesher, and Julia Zayas-Melendez as Stage Manager.
 
Opening on October 7, 2017, THE MAN-BEAST runs through November 5, 2017, with special Preview Performances on October 4, 5, and 6. All performances will take place at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, located at 1717 W 31st St., off Rt. 83, in Oak Brook. First Folio is easy to get to from the East-West Tollway (I-88) or the Stevenson Expressway (I-55). Free parking is available on the grounds. Preview tickets are $25. Regular priced tickets are $34 Wednesdays and Thursdays (seniors and students are $29), and $44 on Fridays through Sundays (seniors and students are $39). Three and four show subscriptions are available for $63-$115. Season subscriptions and individual tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 630.986.8067 or online at www.firstfolio.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Monday, 06 October 2014 19:00

The Gravedigger - Haunting and Beautiful

If you’ve ever wondered what may have filled in the omitted bits and fragments in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, First Folio’s “The Gravedigger” takes the mystery away while presenting its own mystery. Ingeniously creating a story within a story, “The Gravedigger” takes us to a heartbroken and devastated Dr. Victor Frankenstein who searches to destroy the monster who killed his family – a monster he breathed life into himself.

Meanwhile, as Victor hunts, the monster encounters a gravedigger, “Kurt”, when he tries to kill himself in a cemetery. Through reasoning and understanding, the gimpy gravedigger convinces the monster to live and the two develop a friendship. Kurt is dealing with his own past transgressions and we see similarities emerge between the two as the story continues. As time goes on, the monster learns to care and love because he is for the first time being accepted for who he is rather than hated and misunderstood. He even learns he has a soul despite the fact he is created form various corpse parts. When a woman, a self-proclaimed reader of the future, enters the monsters life he begins to become even more human.

Just in time for Halloween, the world premiere of “The Gravedigger” is a haunting, but heartfelt story written by Joseph Zettelmaier that keeps audience members engaged thanks to its flowing dialogue, eighteenth century costumes and memorable set that looks like a cemetery from an old horror flick. In fact, the play is held in the Mayslake Peabody Estate where rumors have its former owner Francis Peabody haunting the mansion, giving it an extra dose of creepy.

Craig Spidle is dynamic as “Kurt” and really grabs his character by the you-know-whats, anchoring a strong cast that includes Chicago acting veterans Doug MacKechnie and Simina Contras. Josh Carroll takes on the role of the monster otherwise known as “Anton” and does an admirable job as the simpleton who expresses many different feelings and emotions for the first time. At time inner beauty is so well defined and personified in Zettelmaier's characters, yet we see that sometimes we are just a vulnerable moment away from unleashing the primitive beast within ourselves. 

That horror can be intertwined with beauty and love makes this story penetrating. It is a story of hope, a story of what could be and a story of change, all the time testing human behavior.  “The Gravedigger” wins on so many levels and can be seen through November 2nd at First Folio Theatre in Oakbrook. Joseph Zettelmaier is a young playwright to keep an eye on.

For more show information, visit www.firstfolio.org.  

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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