2014 Halloween Haunt Award Nominees: Best Play in a Theatrical Setting

Liverpool Empire
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Haunted House and Hayrides are not the only way to experience Halloween horror. Every October, numerous theatres in Los Angeles present horror-themed plays, and the nice thing about them is that they tend to run as long as audiences keep buying tickets, giving haunt-seekers something to do after October 31 has come and gone.

Halloween 2014 saw a plethora of high-quality stage productions, all quite different in tone, style, and content; in fact, Hollywood Gothique probably had as much fun sitting in theatres this season as walking through haunted hallways.

For this category, we are restricting ourselves to plays in traditional venues - which is to say, theatres with stages. Dramas set in unconventional venues will be in a separate category.

And the nominees are...

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Call of Cthulhu photo (cropped)

H.P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu at the Lex Theatre

Performer-adapter Frank Blocker turns Lovecraft's classic story into an acting tour de force, in which a doomed archaeologist passes esoteric knowledge of a cosmic conspiracy to his rapt audience, dooming them as well. As Blocker's archaeologist relates his story, Blocker takes on the persona of numerous characters, each providing a piece of the puzzle that leads to a climax that is less visceral horror than a wave of existential dread.

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Graham Skipper as Herbet West - Reanimator
Graham Skipper

Re-Animator: The Musical at the Steve Allen Theatre

Stuart Gordon’s adaptation transposes his 1985 cult film to the stage, but with every plot point, emotional beat, and character nuance underlined with a song. If that sounds absurd, it is. Fortunately, the live musical embraces the absurdity, creating an experience that is at once familiar in form and yet completely different in tone from its source. You will scream – but with laughter.

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Scary Musical Carrie Jammie and guys cropped

Scary Musical: The Musical at NoHo Arts Center

You really should add this to your post-Halloween hit list. Its strategy is simple but extremely effective: take the cliches of the musical ("let’s put on a show!”) and ram them headlong into the horror cliches (”everybody dies!”). The result is a wonderful spoof of slasher movies filled with great songs and stunning performances.

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Urban Death 2014 at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre

Urban Death: Tour of Terror at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre

Weird and disturbing, this half-hour series of theatrical vignettes is not a play in the traditional sense. It's more like variations on a theme, offering brief glimpses of depraved activity designed to arouse feelings of revulsion, disgust, and horror - played out in a small space, without seating, that forces an almost intimate contact between audience and performers, espeically when the lights go out and whispery voices surround your ears, calling to you by name.

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Horror and Humor: a Zombie Clown
Horror and Humor: a Zombie Clown

The Zombie Effect at the Acme Theatre

This play's combination of black humor and spilled guts is riotous entertainment, focusing on a small band of survivors, locked inside a church, who cannot decide whether their mindless attackers are indeed zombies. The staging inside the small venue uses every available inch - the stage, the aisles, the entrance - to create a marvelous sense of immersing the audience into the story's location - which means you better duck when the guts start to fly.