What: The Bone House
When: October 25-31, 2018
Where: Rutherford Banquet Room, Varscona Hotel on Whyte
Playwright: Marty Chan
Director: Jennifer Krezlewicz
Featuring: Lew Wetherell, Jason Hardwick, Nicole Grainger
Stage Manager: Elizabeth Grierson
Director of Photography: Montana Burkin
Jennifer Krezlewicz’s production of Marty Chan’s The Bone House is an immersive experience that puts spectators at the forefront of its suspenseful narrative. By treating them as if they were an audience at a public information session on serial killers, the play casts viewers as compliant witnesses to an unsettling and grizzly evening of entertainment.
When spectators first enter the fancy Rutherford Banquet Room, they are greeted by the esteemed psychologist Eugene Crowley (Lew Wetherell), a towering man with a pronounced southern drawl. His much smaller and meeker assistant Jacob (Jason Hardwick) is quick to take away their phones. After a brief introduction, the evening talk on serial killers commences.
While the presentation’s subject itself is unsettling, the unshakable feeling that something terrible is going to happen is what’s most frightening. Given The Bone House’s immersive nature, informed audiences are aware that this is going to be more than just an information session. This knowledge creates suspense, as viewers expect something awful to happen at any moment.
Both Crowley and Jacob act strangely, making the experience all the more unsettling. As the session goes on, the two become more and more unhinged, and the audience no longer knows what to believe or how to feel. Audience members get multiple chances to exit the performance, along with warnings that its content is not for the faint of heart. After watching The Bone House, I can attest that it delivers on this front. Without spoiling too much, I’ll just say that I was glad to be sitting in the back.
In addition to delivering effective scares, The Bone House provides intelligent commentary on society’s obsession with serial killers. Not only will viewers come out of this play having been frightened, they will also come out of it with more awareness of their compliant role in the mythicization of murderers. Although The Bone House somewhat contradicts this criticism by exploiting people’s fascination with horror, its criticism of society’s complicity in venerating serial killers still rings true.
As long as there is an audience for grizzly affairs, there will be performers to accomplish these gruesome deeds, both in plays and in real life.