Theatre Review: The Man-Beast

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The Man-Beast
Written by Joseph Zettelmaier
Directed by Hayley Rice
Starring Elizabeth Laidlaw and Aaron Christensen

Here at the Krypt, we don’t get out to an actual theater too often. Not a movie theater, but a stage theater. Honestly we should, but it has to be something usually dabbling in the horror genre to really pique my interests. But no matter what the genre, the whole process and performance just boggles my mind. Movies are one thing, with multiple takes and makeup effects done over and over again until they are perfect. But on the stage, it’s only the actors carrying the weight of the play. There are no re-takes, no “let’s try that from the top”. So the times that we’ve made it out to the theater, it always amazes me that these people are able to do what they do and let alone do it with such passion and style that can not only entertain, but entrance the audience into their little make-believe world for a couple of hours.

This last Sunday, we ventured forth to the French countryside in 18th century, to a little tale of a werewolf. Okay, actually it was in Oakbrook, IL, to the Mayslake Peabody Estate, where the First Folio Theatre was presenting The Man-Beast!

Now, full disclosure here, one of the actors, Aaron Christensen, is a good friend of the Krypt, but he knows better than anyone, that if I didn’t like something, it wouldn’t matter who was involved, it wouldn’t stop my thoughts being discussed here.

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The story features two characters, Virginie Allard (Elizabeth Laidlaw) and Jean Chastel (Christensen), who come together because of a monstrous beast of some sort that has been terrorizing the land for the last few years, killing over a hundred people and even more animals. Chastel comes staggering into Allard’s house in the woods because he’s been bitten by this beast that he’s been trying to hunt down for the huge reward and he knows of Allard’s knowledge of…things. Once Allard arrives back home and finds the wounded houseguest, after a tense beginning, a friendship and more starts to form, as well as a devious plan.

Now if you’re coming to this play expecting werewolves running about, guts flying and blood spilling, then I’m sorry to say you will be disappointed. But if you’re coming for a intense character piece between two characters that develop a relationship, that may or may not have a werewolf somewhere around, then I believe you will enjoy The Man-Beast. Here’s the thing. Like any story, whether it be in a horror movie or another genre, the main thing you need to do is make the audience care for your characters. If they don’t, then whatever happens to them will have no impact. But…if you develop your characters the right way, and with the performances drawing the audience in, when something does happen, you have them in the palm of your hand…or paw, as the case might be. And this is where The Man-Beast will draw you into their little tale that will keep you more than interested. And when the blood does flow, and it does, you’ll already be too far in to step back.

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Both Christensen and Laidlaw do exceptional work and making their characters become real people on stage. The first act draws you in to who they are, but it is in the second act when the gloves come off. Who’s to say which character was right or wrong, what their plan was from the beginning, or how they might have gotten lost upon the way. It is something that you will probably discuss on the way home from the theater. I know we did.

Kudos to playwright Joseph Zettelmaier for creating something so different and unique for a play to be about a werewolf but having so much more depth and story woven in the story. As any horror fan could tell you, the concept of being an outcast or at least not really fitting in with normal society is something we’ve all felt. So there were moments that struck a chord with me on a personal level, about not fitting in, whether it be not wanting to or being jealous because you don’t. Well done, sir.

Directed by Hayley Rice, The Man-Beast is playing at the Mayslake Peabody Estate (1717 W. 31st St., Oakbrook, IL), located right off of Rt. 83. It opened on Oct. 7th and runs through Nov. 5th. Definitely recommended. For more information, head over to their website HERE.

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