Our charming friend Weston reviews plays for a theatre website. He took us last night as his plus-one (when broke, turn down no free entertainments, says we) to Manhattan Theatresource's Things at the Doorstep, a set of one-man plays billed as "an evening of horror based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft." One knows, straight off the bat, that even if one is a Lovecraft fan (which we are, with reservations), two back-to-back one-man shows based on Lovecraft stories are either going to be truly amazing or staggeringly awful. There is not much room for the middling in such an endeavor. Luckily for us, they turned out to be amazing.
As with most of the truly magical things that have happened to us in New York, we encountered this play by chance. The occasion did seem fortuitous: yesterday was the anniversary of H.P.'s death (of intestinal cancer). That we turned out to be wearing the same shirt as playwright Nat Cassidy was a nice fateful touch (Bauhaus, very appropriate, kind of spooky). Equally apt--particularly for Lovecraft, who was obsessed with astrological omens--the moon is five days away from perigee; on the 19th of March the full moon will be the closest to earth it's been in twenty years. So! all of that, rather portentous indeed. Thus it was quite fitting that Things at the Doorstep turned out to be an unexpectedly brilliant mediation on the use and function of horror, on H.P. Lovecraft himself, on the supernatural, on storytelling, on death, on hope. On acting, which bears a suspicious similarity to writing: a career that is almost entirely out of your control--a series of petty humiliations and ongoing miseries that one endures for the sake of those rare and perfect moments of transcendence, when one crosses over into another world, another body, another story than one's own.
We are still thinking, a day later, about what it means to tell a story, and about what it means to love a writer whose work is difficult and often horrifying--and not in the Stephen King sense of the word, either. As someone who has struggled for years to reconcile her love of, shall we say, problematic texts with her love of a radical and liberatory politics, it is both reassuring and useful to watch someone else wrestling with the same questions--in this case, in the course of a play creepy and magical enough to do old H.P. proud (although it is difficult to imagine that gentleman being pleased with much of anything, to be honest). You did not know, did you, that there were so many lessons to take home, from the life of a man who hated people in general and women and people of color very much in particular; a lonely, nasty, bitter human being who spent the entirety of his life in a state of profound misery, who died alone and penniless and in excruciating pain, having never known a moment of success; and yet, who produced one of the most enduring and influential bodies of work in literary history.
We are not going to spoil the secret of this play for you, except to say that it is the most delightful thing we have ever seen anyone pull off on a stage, anywhere, ever, and if you are in New York you must go see it. You must. You REALLY MUST. Whatever you do, do not leave during the intermission. Things at the Doorstep is playing at Manhattan Theatresource through next weekend. Go. GO. Write and tell us about it, if you do.