It was a dark and windy night in Chicago, the perfect atmosphere to enjoy an immersive play about vampire hunters, using the historic Epworth United Methodist Church as its backdrop to add an even creepier feel to the experience. Gone Dark, the latest production by Otherworld Theatre and written by playwright Stuart Bousel, is a gothic thriller about a society of vampire hunters who convene for their annual reunion and what happens when one of them is lured towards the darkness by the very thing they hunt.
With my vampire friend Bradford at my side, we were led through the innermost bowels of the church to experience scene after scene that moved the story along. From brothels to bedrooms to courtyards, the performance utilized every room to its advantage, taking the audience on a journey with the characters.
I went in knowing very little about the story and the experience, which I think made it all the more fun. I read the word “immersive” in the description, but I didn’t exactly understand what that entailed, until a masked man carrying a lantern led the small audience from room to room to experience a new scene. The play allowed me to feel like I was part of the story. The actors were mere feet from you in some cases – not far away on a stage – sometimes even interacting with audience members, creating a unique intimacy unlike any other play I’ve seen.
The actors themselves were extremely fun to watch. I was familiar with most of them, having seen Otherworld Theatre’s performance of Queen Amarantha, but due to the close proximity to them in this story, you feel a deep kinship with them. As though you’re out in the world fighting vampires alongside them, stake in hand. As though you could grab an apple from the table and start chatting up hunting tactics. As though you could chat with Sylla by the fire about what life was like for her in America.
I’m a bit of a sucker for a story revolving vampire slaying. (DUH!) So, I thoroughly enjoyed a different take on it and how each character was very individualized, while adding a major impact upon the story. And just wait until you get into the main church room for the climax of the story. That was definitely the highlight for me and props to everyone for their fighting choreography. I wanted to run up on stage and help fight!
Gone Dark wasn’t all doom and gloom though – as vampire stories tend to be – there was quite a lot of humor in many scenes. Especially the newly divorced vampire hunting couple, Raymond and Philomena. Even through all the arguing and funny digs at one another, you couldn’t help but root for them. Plus, new head of the vampire hunting society, Hermia, was a powerful figure, yet fun character, who embraced her “trollop” way of life. A boyfriend in all corners of Europe? You go, girl. (Also, she definitely had my favorite costume of the bunch! That fur-trimmed cape!) My homegirl Mary-Kate Arnold played the alluring vampire maiden, Urania, who didn’t understand what had happened to her or why she was so damn hungry. Her performance (and screams of anguish in some cases) echoed through every room she entered.
If you have the chance to see – or experience, rather – this performance, I highly recommend it. Otherworld Theatre, run by Tiffany Keane, strives to produce incredibly unique fantasy and science fiction plays that never lack for costumes, sets, or performances. And Gone Dark was no exception.
Gone Dark runs through November 22nd, Thursday-Sunday nights at 8PM at Epworth United Methodist Church: 5253 N Kenmore Ave, Chicago, IL 60640.
Tickets are very limited given the nature of the play, so get yours now!
About Otherworld Theatre
Otherworld Theatre is a local theatre company in Chicago dedicated to Science Fiction and Fantasy performance. Since being founded in 2012, Otherworld has produced some incredible Science Fiction and Fantasy plays including Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Cameron McNary’s Of Dice and Men, Bella Poynton’s The Aurora Project, and Charles Busch’s Queen Amarantha. They have also created and host the Juggernaut Film Festival, a night of science fiction and fantasy short films and The Paragon Play Festival, the world’s largest SciFi and Fantasy play festival. Otherworld consistently performs at various conventions around the Midwest including Chicago’s C2E2, ValorCon, and Capricon and GenCon in Indianapolis.