Wicked Lit has done it again, stunning us with incredibly cool productions that play out among the dead in the Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery in Altadena, California, just minutes from Burbank and Glendale here in Los Angeles. After seeing a Wicked Lit play during ScareLA 2013, we attended one of Unbound Productions’ full presentations last Halloween – and our heads melted from how fantastic it was! With great anticipation, we made the drive once again to Mountain View this season for another night of Wicked Lit – and once again, were completely blown away by how much fun we had at this incredibly unique theatrical production.
For those not in the know, Wicked Lit is a large-scale theatrical experience that is created each Halloween season by Unbound Productions. It takes place in the Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery (at least it has for the past 7 years), throughout the incredible resting grounds found there. The mausoleum is incredible – ornate, grand, and beautiful. The cemetery grounds around the mausoleum also become a stage for Wicked Lit, something that is both haunting and wonderful at the same time, in a macabre sort of way. Each play is based on a well-known story – thus, literature becomes “lit”, and the art of storytelling this group has perfected is simply… wicked.
To be clear – this isn’t a “haunt”, per se. Wicked Lit is a professional stage production, and typically, it attracts an older, theater-going crowd than other Halloween events around Los Angeles and Orange County do. That said, we’ve never spoken to a haunter or haunted attraction fan who has gone to Wicked Lit that hasn’t raved about it afterward to friends, family and anyone else who’ll listen!
Once the entire group of guests for an evening has gathered, the show begins as a theatre in the round, in a central hub at the property. Guests are then split into three separate groups, and are escorted into the darkness in different directions. Wicked Lit is made up of three very different productions that are executed simultaneously, so that they start and end roughly at the same time, allowing all guests to return to the central hub (they refer to the space as their “lobby” all at once following each performance. The groups are rotated throughout the night, so that after nearly three hours, everyone has witnessed each of the Wicked Lit plays and the evening concludes when everyone returns to the lobby for the final time.
The mausoleum and cemetery grounds are rigged with speakers, show lighting, and special effects that bring the productions to life extremely well – especially inside the main mausoleum, where the environment is completely controlled by Unbound Productions. The plays that take place outside do so at the mercy of the weather and surrounding neighbors; unfortunately, there are times when neither cooperate fully – whether it be a rainy or windy night, or someone decides to rev their motorcycle endlessly on a nearby street. Outside factors such as these are obviously out of Unbound’s control – but rarely are they a major issue.
What is completely in Unbound Productions’ control is the incredible soundscape that they have created this year for the Wicked Lit show, as well as the surprising special effects that are employed during each performance. The audio design works so incredibly well – especially in enclosed spaces – that you forget you’re witnessing a guerrilla-style theatrical production in a most unusual locale; it’s simply awesome.
This year’s three productions during Wicked Lit are The Grove of Rashomon, a fantastic adaptation of Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s Japanese story The Grove, which is an emotional recounting of a violent attack on a couple in 12th Century Japan; The Ebony Frame based on the short story by Edith Nesbit, which is a bitter tale of love and loss; and The Fall of the House of Usher, based on Poe’s legendary tale of a haunted house – and haunted bloodline. At the center of these productions, is an adaptation of Poe’s The System, which is brilliantly played out during each intermission by a fantastic team of actors.
In fact, all of the actors in Wicked Lit are phenomenal and take us away to a different time and place effortlessly – not necessarily an easy feat when you consider the environment is an honest-to-goodness cemetery, and not a theatre.
Let’s talk about that for a moment; the fact that Wicked Lit is produced in a real cemetery and giant mausoleum. On one hand, that alone may give people the creeps; understandably, cemeteries at night aren’t exactly the first choice for most people when pondering where they want to hang out. However, I find it very comforting in a way – and think that if the dead could talk (they can, can’t they?), they’d be delighted to have their eternal resting place come alive with exciting, wonderful theater and the energy of everyone enjoying themselves for the night in an otherwise cold and melancholy place. While there are occasional quips and references made regarding the surroundings, Unbound Productions is absolutely respectful – as are their guests at Wicked Lit. Stepping back and looking at this production as a whole, it’s a seasonal celebration of art, of storytelling, and of life – which includes death; and it’s truly a moving experience for everyone.
This year, our favorite play at Wicked Lit is The Fall of the House of Usher. The soundscapes used, the breathtaking special effects, and the truly extraordinary acting by this team – incredible; one of the most jaw-dropping experiences we will have all Halloween season, without a doubt. Of course, each of the other plays and teams are fantastic, too – there is no weak link in this year’s production.
Most nights of Wicked Lit sell out, so visit their website and secure tickets right away, if you haven’t already. Keep in mind, the experience lasts about 3 hours, which makes it a fantastic date night, or evening out with friends. Wicked Lit is for mature audiences, and is strongly recommended for guests 16 years of age and older. There is a fair amount of walking involved, and all guests must be able to climb stairs to experience the production.
In short, if you are a fan of horror, Halloween, and everything that goes bump in the night, Wicked Lit is a stunning experience that has to be at the top of your To-Do list this season. Wicked Lit continues on select nights until November 14, 2015, and is one of the finest Halloween treats found anywhere in the United States.
Theme Park Adventure thanks the staff at Unbound Productions, and remains enchanted by the spell each actor cast over us as we explored the shadows and fog-shrouded grounds of the Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery while experiencing the very best of Wicked Lit!
– Rick West
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