The Ghastly Dreadfuls – An Atlanta Theater Fans Review

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Ghastly Dreadfuls at the Center for Puppetry Arts

Photo by Clay Walker ©2010 Center for Puppetry Arts

Definitely not the typical fare performed at the Center for Puppetry Arts, The Ghastly Dreadfuls, an adult only puppet show, provides a theater experience unlike anything else found in Atlanta. By presenting a “puppet variety show,” the Center has found the right combination of humor, puppet wizardry, and music to make even the most pessimistic audience member leave with a changed attitude.

The show offers various vignettes and songs that feature eerie twists. With a keyboard, cello, violin and guitars, the music is exceptionally strong to complement the vignettes. Highly entertaining, each of the talented musicians also double as actors, and most of them perform as storytellers as well as puppeteers.

The Ghastly Dreadfuls cast of seven includes Scott DePoy. Reay Kaplan, Jessica Kornhoff, Jon Ludwig, Spencer G. Stephens, Robert Strickland and Tim Sweeney. Each is wonderful as they switch from being actors, musicians, puppeteers and voices for the puppets. However, one performer among the group certainly stands out: Reay Kaplan as Lady Dreadful. As a storyteller, Kaplan’s eloquent vocals command attention, and she showcases even more talent with her singing and tap dancing.

After the group introduces themselves and explains how they each met their demise, the audience is whisked away to Paris in the enjoyable “Le Petit Vampyr.” Meeting a tiny vampire who humorously looks for his next meal, the audience is invited to sing the chorus with the cast. However, the most laughs come from “The Girl in the New Dress.”

The newest vignette, and most suspenseful, of the program is “Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.” This erotic piece, based on the Blue Beard legend, tells the story of a newlywed bride who tries to escape from being the fourth wife to fall victim to her husband’s murderous ways. Every detail of this piece is exquisite. The puppets’ interactions with a live actor, the realistic sound effects, the use of shadow puppets, the quickly changing and elaborate scenery – they all provide a captivating piece.

The intimate downstairs theater where the show is performed offers no bad seats, but audience members sitting half-way back or closer will have the best view of the intricate puppets. There is an intermission, and all audience members must exit the theater space during this time. Depending on how quickly everyone gets back into the theater, the show, including intermission, will last a little more or less than two hours. Before the show and at intermission, a cash bar serving beer and wine is available at the Center’s “Lost Souls Tavern.”

Grabbing a cold beer, entering the kid-free zone, laughing at the bawdy humor, and enjoying the upbeat, spooky tunes; what could be a better way for adults to get into the Halloween mood? For those who are regulars or those discovering this well-crafted show for the first time, The Ghastly Dreadfuls delivers a devilishly fun night out. Tickets and more information can be found at www.puppet.org. The show runs through October 29.

– A. Wesley