Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Set in early October a few decades ago, the plot follows the exploits of two 13-year-old boys and the mysterious carnival that pulls into their small Midwestern town late one night. As a lightning rod salesman tells the boys at the start of the show, "a storm is coming" as the supernatural forces of Mr. Dark, one of the owners of the carnival, blow into town and beckon the two boys and the townspeople with the promise of seemingly impossible dreams.
The leads in this production are excellent. Charlie Rabago and Noah Weavers beautifully evoke youthful excitement and fascination as the two young teenage boys, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, who are next-door neighbors and best friends. Weavers displays the perfect sense of reckless curiosity as Jim, who is tempted by the draw of the carnival, while Rabago, expertly playing several years younger than his actual age, is exceptional as the nervous and suspecting Will. As Will's father, Mr. Halloway, Greg Lutz is giving a superb, beautiful, and at times heartbreaking performance as this mild mannered man who has to confront the realization that he's now past middle age and must face the fear that death is closer than he wishes. The scene he and Rabago share, as he tells his son about the nature of goodness, is both beautifully written and acted. The three create rich, realistic characters full of natural reactions to the supernatural aspects they witness and they portray accurate representations of close friendships and father/son relationships. David Dickinson is just creepy enough as Mr. Dark to evoke fear, yet gentle and warm enough to be seen as a welcoming and authoritative host. Dickinson also never overplays the part of the villain to the point where it is too broad or comical.
Director Elaine "E.E." Moe has clearly done excellent work with the cast, especially the four leads, to ensure they deliver realistic performances of fear and wonder at what the characters experience, and her staging makes very good use of the exceptional set by Douglas Clarke. She uses simple yet imaginatively theatrical ways to portray both the intoxicating maze of mirrors the boys and their teacher find themselves lost in and also the carousel with mystical abilities. However, the occasional slow pace and a few prolonged scene changes threaten to drag the production down at times.
With odd angles in the design and windows in shapes like the suits in a deck of card, Clarke's colorful and creatively imaginative set works well for the two homes of the boys and the carnival setting. Daniel Davisson's rich lighting beautifully evokes the deep, dark sense of dread in the middle of the night and also the colorful pull of the carnival. Maci Hosler's costumes are period appropriate yet also full of color and wonder, and Christy Lindsay's hair and make-up designs include a creepy yet intriguing skull-face design for Mr. Dark.
Bradbury's tale beautifully portrays the innocence of youth, the hopes and fears of both young and old, the fear and fascination of the unknown, and the reminder that wishes can sometimes be the stuff of nightmares. He also shows that the power of happiness, laughter and joy are of utmost importance. BLK BOX PHX's production of this literary classic offers much to admire and enjoy, including exceptional leads and rich, colorful creative elements. There is a lot to reflect upon in this very inviting production. Just be very cautious if someone ever offers you a free ticket for a ride on the merry-go-round.
BLK BOX PHX's Something Wicked This Way Comes, through November 11, 2018, at Phoenix Theatre's Hardes Little Theatre at 100 E. McDowell in Phoenix AZ. Tickets can be purchased by calling 602-254-2151 or at www.blkboxphx.com.
Elaine "E.E." Moe