Event Report: “TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE” Live at Lincoln Center!Books/Art/Culture,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
As any New Yorker can tell you, a 70-degree night in the middle of October is a fairly strange occurrence. But perhaps the peculiarly warm weather was fitting for a night such as October 20th, in which the good folks at Glass Eye Pix would be taking their eerie brand of radio plays to Lincoln Center for another live edition of TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE. Yet even beyond a showcase for the varying degrees of audio terror that can come from the minds of filmmakers Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid, TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE is such a special experience because it truly feels communal, with horror enthusiasts gathering en masse to witness the petrifying proceedings.
This writer doesn’t know for sure if the other horrorheads in attendance had ever attended a round of TALES live before, but as someone who was lucky enough to catch Glass Eye Pix’s show-stopping performance at the 2015 Stanley Film Festival, I knew exactly how much fun these shows can be. From genre-friendly performers, live music and foley work, and an immersive sound design, TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE’s live editions are as fun to witness as they are frightening. But the true kicker for seeing TALES live is to witness some truly original, fantastic horror from those who tell it best, with stories not bound to multiple takes, budgetary restrictions, or studio notes.
Arriving just in time to catch the introduction for the first tale, this writer spotted the murderer’s row of performers for the night, comprised of James Le Gros (THE LAST WINTER), Noah Le Gros (THE GET DOWN), Lauren Ashley Carter (DARLING), John Speredakos (THE MIND’S EYE), TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE regular Mathew Stephen Huffman and Fessenden himself. The first story, “Who Killed Johnny Bernard?,” was penned by Fessenden, following a non-linear Faustian tale that offers more heartbreak than it does straight-up horror. This story was also the most musically active of the pair, with Jack Fessenden and several of the TALES team providing a miniature jam session during one flashback in particular.
However, if Fessenden’s tale was light on the genre material, the second story, penned by McQuaid, certainly more than made up for it. Entitled “Game Night,” McQuaid wove a tale of middle-aged men whose version of a mid-life crisis includes an attempt to summon a demon in a satanic ritual. Yet when their efforts go bust, the four men are ready to call it quits…that is, until the Pizza Delivery Girl arrives and offers her Goth expertise to ensure their supernatural connection. Giving much for live foley artists Chris Skotchdopole and Tessa Price to do, “Game Night” is much more light-hearted than its predecessor, but also a much more traditional horror story with a subversive contemporary edge.
Luckily, each TALE was each equally fascinating to come to life, with the old school charm and the certainly capable cast offering a spirited take on these stories. In the case of “Johnny Bernard,” the story was somewhat like a puzzle, but once the audience understood what was going on and the performers got into the groove of things, the tale was quite captivating, with a bittersweet ending one normally doesn’t expect from anthology horror. “Game Night,” on the other hand, offered up a more jovial chemistry, with some laugh out loud moments (including a scene in which the guys realize they need a blood sacrifice) as well as a gloriously schizophrenic performance from Carter, who jumped between voices and characters with surprising finesse.
Overall, TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE once again proved to be an excellent show to be experienced live. From the inherent appeal of watching pumpkins getting smashed in by foley artists to the spontaneous performances to the phenomenal writing on display, there is truly something special about witnessing imaginative storytelling encapsulated in a medium so against the grain, and the welcoming Lincoln Center audience certainly felt it as well. This writer just hopes you’ll be able to hear these scary stories for yourself sooner rather than later, but make no mistake: if you get the opportunity to experience TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE live, run, don’t walk. It’s a fairly singular experience within the genre, and one that deserves to be witnessed firsthand.