Tonika Todorova is an adventure architect and a passionate lover of the shared human experience.
Pictured: Kevin Webb | Photo by Cole Simon
By Tonika Todorova
Black button eyes greet you at the entryway to NIGHTMARES & NIGHTCAPS, the latest fare from the Coraline-inspired theatre company. Underneath the unnatural gaze of the actor’s headshots and the live usher, pleasant mouths, all smiling, the scene is reminiscent of a child’s pop-up book that might indeed hold something thrilling. But the interest is piqued.
Upon a neat set on which set/props designer and technical director Jeremiah Barr paid elegant attention to detail, a single actor sits dozing over a great big book. When our narrator (Kevin Webb) begins to speak, the words of John Collier swim in vivid imagery and allegory, expressing self-awareness and acute understanding of societal behavior while their cadance resonates the mechanical tap dance of an old typewriter. From here on out, the production’s pendulum swings between camp and macabre. Edna (Caitlin Jackson) and Mr. Beaseley (Shane Roberie) prove to be especially delightfully campy. The ensemble easily shifts in and out of different roles, sometimes while still on stage, and all of the theatrical elements find a natural flow to tell their unnatural tales.
The title of this production itself reminds you not to take matters too seriously as these John Collier stories bring an easy going marriage of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps (Nightmares!) and late night radio horror (Nightcaps!). Depending on your tastes, it could be your mare or your cup o’. But you can’t blame Black Button Eyes for doing its particular thing so darn well.
NIGHTMARES AND NIGHTCAPS plays through September 15 at The Athenaeum Theatre (Studio Two), 2936 N. Southport Ave. Tickets are available at athenaeumtheatre.org.