Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hardcover Theater takes classic literature to the stage with 'She'

by Rob Callahan

There is a long tradition of bringing the classic horror and science fiction stories of the nineteenth century to a live audience. Frankenstein and Dracula are easily the most widely-known incarnations of a movement that also includes the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs and, most recently, H. Rider Haggard. She: Immortal Witch- Queen of a Lost World is Hardcover Theater's adaptation of the lost world epic by the author more famous for having penned King Solomon's Mines and Allan Quatermain. Appearing on stage this month at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, a small band of actors reenact the adventures of Professor Horace Holly and his entourage via minimalist sets - relying only on lighting, narration and the strength of the cast.

She is a Victorian tale of three intrepid adventurers and a morally-ambiguous woman whose magical powers have placed her as unquestioned sovereign over a society that's been removed from the rest of the world for thousands of years. On stage, the enhanced storytelling style with which it is presented brings the central characters to life with all of the roundness, pathos, intensity and camp one would expect from the literary genre that would later inspire franchises like Indiana Jones and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The narration provided by both main characters and the supporting chorus interweave with skilled acting to paint vivid imagery within the mind's eye. With a script tailored to a small stage and a smaller budget, the tight-knit theater company successfully brings a story of vast scale to the confines of a small theater space. At times, the cast wades into the aisles and weaves amongst the audience as a chorus stands in the background, intoning in unison, to create the illusion of the scene around them.

She: Immortal Witch Queen of a Lost World runs Thursdays and Saturdays at 7:00pm and Sundays at 3:00pm through November 22nd at Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, with admission of $14-$18 (pay what you can) or $12 with a Fringe Festival button. Doors open one hour before show time.

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