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Now onstage at Toronto's Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen Street East.

Credit: Adrianna Prosser. Pictured: Eric Woolfe as Wuthergloom with two of the macabre looking puppets

Joe Szekeres

Eric Woolfe delivers a bedevilling grand performance as the ghoulish Dr. Wuthergloom. The production is often hilarious and witty about dark moments of the mortal realm we never want to discuss.

Macabre storytelling, especially around Hallowe’en, never sounded so enticing as it does in the clever hands of Eric Woolfe in the intimate Red Sandcastle Theatre.

Tonight was a perfect opening to those who appreciate Hallowe’en.

We enter the world of Dr. Pretorius Wuthergloom (Woolfe), a travelling exorcist and infamous necromancer who sells his merchandise about monsters lurking in the horrors of the mind and mortal realm to gullible buyers. Yes, I was one of them. I also purchased a potion vial for my goddaughter, who accompanied me this evening from Wuthergloom’s ‘lovely’ assistant Camille (Emma Mackenzie Hillier). Dressed as a ghastly-looking, yesteryear Las Vegas cigarette girl right out of ‘Rocky Horror,’ Camille carries around the ‘merch’ to hawk to unsuspecting audience members. A few don’t bite.

Music from a pre-recorded calliope can be heard throughout the pre-show. There is an unsettling, eerie feeling just looking at the set. Some objects are covered. These will be uncovered throughout the show. There are shrunken heads with what look like masks of the varied frightening creatures and monsters that can be found in Wuthergloom’s ‘Field Guide to Monsters’ (which he shamelessly continues to plug throughout the show)

Wuthergloom/Woolfe sits hawkish in the corner upstage right and stares as the audience enters. The look in his eyes is ominous. He reminds me of one of the outlandish circus freaks from Ray Bradbury’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’. He is shuffling a deck of cards or tarot pack to help pass the time. Designer Melanie McNeill accoutres the Doctor in blood-red and black striped pants. His black top hat has seen better days. He wears a black vest and a white open-collar shirt. His running shoes are large. The white makeup on his face is a perfect combination of a cross between a skeleton and a banshee.

This opening night production is often wickedly satirical, with piercing jabs at some contemporary references in the local Toronto/Ontario provincial scene. One most notable was the state of theatre companies applying for grant money from the provincial Ford government. There is audience participation, so beware. It won’t matter if you’re sitting in the first few rows or not because Wuthergloom/Woole scans the audience for victims…oops…volunteers.

Side note: It’s fun if you volunteer to go up on the stage.

Eric Woolfe is a bedevilling Dr. Wuthergloom. His comical timing in narrating child-eating faeries and the cigar-smoking Kapre of the Philippines remains a riot. The grisly puppets used during the performance wickedly showcase Woolfe’s terrific vocal work in establishing individual personas. The story of Edward Mordrake, the man with Two Faces is hilarious.

Woolfe’s magic tricks are also impressive. I sat in the second row, and there were moments where an ivory-looking egg disappeared and reappeared. How was that done?

Final Comments: I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at ‘Here There Be Monsters’. I suspected there would be ghost stories and tales of the dead to be told. I didn’t expect to laugh and have as much fun as I did.

‘Here There Be Monsters’ is a terrific show to experience as the sun sets earlier, the cooler weather beckons and rust-coloured leaves tentatively hang from tree branches.

Great fun, but don’t bring the wee ones. There is s some adult humour and language depending on Woolfe’s improvisations at the particular moment.

Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission.

‘Here There Be Monsters’ runs until November 5 at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen Street East, Toronto. For tickets,

Created and Performed by Eric Woolfe
Produced by Adrianna Prosser
Costumes Designed by Melanie McNeill

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