Halloween productions bring boost to box office

For Gotham theatergoers, Halloween is more treat than trick. Second only to the Christmas season, late October is the time when the Off Broadway community sets aside time and money for a limited-run holiday show.

“Halloween is a big deal here,” said theater spokeswoman Laura Kaplow-Goldman at a Saturday perf of the New Victory’s “Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe.”

A production of the Edmonton, Alberta-based Catalyst theater, “Nevermore” has gotten the star treatment from the Times Square-based presenting org, which converted most of its interior into a huge installation set for the Catherine Wheels Theater’s “Hansel and Gretel” last year.

Each year’s Halloween show is a frightening affair, frequently with the theater’s “11 and older” age warning on it. Despite (or perhaps because of) the caveats, the New Vic gets a boost from these Halloween productions, especially since they provide urban parents an alternative to trick-or-treating experiences that can be scary in a less fun way.

The rewards can be rich for the right show. “The run completely sold out in record time,” monologist Mike Daisey said of “Barring the Unforeseen,” his piece for the scary season. Daisey’s show, a 90-minute monologue delivered partly in total darkness, deals with Daisey’s own experiences with Ouija boards. One story is about breaking into H.P. Lovecraft’s old apartment to hold a séance, and another is what Daisey called “the worst story that I know” about something that happened in his home town in Maine.

“It’s very interesting seeing what audiences do when they’re not made comfortable,” said Daisey, who planned the show’s layout to disturb. “I’ve had successful reactions with different kinds of audiences. Sometimes they get rambunctious and make sound to fill the space, and sometimes they get unbelievably silent, to the point where I’ll ask my wife (who also directs), ‘Are they there? It sounds like there are about six of them.'”

There were more than six on Friday evening. Latecomers signed on to the lengthy waiting list, and everyone got in line behind a middle-aged visually impaired man who said he never missed a Daisey show. He had arrived first with his seeing-eye dog, a well-behaved (but enormous) German shepherd named Ghandi who added to the mood. The hallway at the theater — chosen for the show because of its ambience — was painted an institutional green and stretched for at least fifty feet but was barely wide enough for two people — giving it the feeling of a location in a horror movie.

Halloween shows don’t all set out to terrify, however. The Upright Citizens’ Brigade Theater has revived “Killgore” every year for the past three years. “It’s one of our most popular shows,” said helmer and UCBT artistic associate John Frusciante. “Fake blood is a serious expense. There are torrents of fake blood that splash the audience, and every audience member gets a poncho. We have tarps for the first row.”

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