Theater Review — The Wendigo

 

wendigo.jpgPulling off horror in a stage play isn’t an easy trick. The usual methods for providing “jumps” in a movie such as camera angles and sudden appearances can’t be handled in a live setting. So how does that translate to the Vagabond Theater Ensemble’s new NYC stage version of Algernon Blackwood’s “The Wendigo,” adapted by Eric Sanders? The answer is…surprisingly well.
Packing a lot of atmosphere into a tight 45-minute production, “The Wendigo” does an impressive job with creating an unsettling mood. The sparse set, effective lighting, and nerve-jangling music do a terrific job with establishing a very tense atmosphere around this tale of four men who go hunting deep in the Canadian woods only to come across unimaginable evil.
As with the production design, the acting is also uniformly strong. And director Matthew Hanock comes up with some clever ways of adding an extra layer of creepiness to the story, such as having actors face the wall, unmoving, their backs to the audience Blair Witch-style when not being used in the scene.
Still, it would be tough to categorize the play as scary. Rather, it effectively conjures a real feeling of dread and uneasiness. Part of this is the nature of the source material, which is a classic tale that pushes atmosphere over shocks. And the other part comes from a couple of ill-advised uses of image projection, particularly one that represents the Wendigo itself — the one thing the play that would better off having not been shown in any capacity at all.
But besides those minor quibbles, “The Wendigo” is certainly worth checking out if you’re in New York City, particularly for fans of Blackwood or classic horror literature. It’s a genre you don’t see translated to the stage very often, and especially not translated with any measure of success. “The Wendigo” may not give you nightmares, but it will creep you out enough to make you think twice about camping in the woods alone.
Click here for more information on this show.
— Matt Schwartz

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