Though the Halloween season may be a few months away, any impatient horror fans or theatre lovers can get a dose of spookiness a lot sooner than October thanks to Infinite Abyss’sFright Night. Though the thrills the show offers are more in the campy vein than truly scary ones in this send up of the 1985 film of the same name, the relatively straightforward story is still genuinely creepy and suspenseful enough to easily keep audience attention for its two hour running time.
The plot follows teenage horror buff Charley Brewster, whose biggest concern is when he’ll finally score a home run with his sweetheart Amy until he starts noticing increasingly obvious signs that his new next door neighbor James Dandrige may be a vampire in disguise. For help, he seeks out Peter Vincent, a Vincent Price-inspired Hollywood horror host who doesn’t actually believe in the monster stories he’s made his reputation peddling. But he, Amy, and Charley’s quirky friend Ed all eventually learn, firsthand and the hard way, that Dandrige’s dangers are all too real.
Though the chain of events that ensues offers no great narrative innovations—as Vincent comments at one point, everything works much as you would expect it would given not only the show’s source material, but the broader arena of familiar horror tropes—it is a fun one to watch play out as the emotional stakes build and wooden stakes are brandished. You’ll find no pretensions, but you will find an eclectic mix of eerie vibes, full-tilt drama, and amusing cheesiness in some over-the-top aspects. An overall high energy and highly committed cast gives the play’s impossibilities the necessary aura of plausibility. As Charley, Matthew Salas does an admirable job of creating and then sustaining his character’s burgeoning hysteria as his suspicions grow and then manifest. Without spoiling the specific twists, Amanda Ortega also adeptly manages a necessary transition from spunky girl next door to seductive dark mistress as Amy and Tyler Charles Kane, as Ed, also pulls off a memorable shift in demeanor under otherworldly influence.
Dynamic staging also helps keep things interesting, as characters frequently enter from the audience and a portion of one scene is fully staged there. The plays’ sets and costumes effectively evoke the intended eighties setting while also usefully accommodating its frequently shifting locations amidst effective atmospheric touches like string lights and a disco ball. In another unique touch, and in keeping with the playful spirit of the entire undertaking, audience members are invited to come in eighties attire and even to come onstage and dance during one pivotal club scene. On the night I attended, nobody actually went for it despite the actors’ beckoning—but it did look like a fun enough time that I might’ve joined, if somebody else had broken the ice first!
Though not every character gets out of Fright Night unscathed, it’s also worth noting that the ending hews closer to all’s well that ends well than one in which the monsters nab the win, which also keeps well with the enjoyably escapist nature of the experience as a whole. When the real world is beset by as many demons as you can find in your typical doom-scroll, a comparatively pleasant dalliance with the undead like Fright Night may be just what the doctor ordered to decompress—and you can see for yourself at The Foundry until this August 6th!
Ilana Jael earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Sarah Lawrence College and a BA in Writing and Psychology from Florida Atlantic University’s Wilkes Honors College. She also served as co-founder of the student theatre troupe “Theatre in the Raw.” She has been dabbling in both playwriting and acting since high school. A few favorite roles include Rebel in Columbinus (Bob Carter’s Actor’s Rep), The Fearful One in The Cave (G-Star School of The Arts), and Amanda in The Glass Menagerie (Theatre In The Raw). Her one-act plays Goodbye, Karma’s A Bitch, Certainly Not About Him, and Open Heart have also been previously performed at Actor’s Rep and/or at Florida Atlantic University. More recently, Ilana appeared in and created the original musical ZeeZou’s Stardust Extravaganza with Area Stage’s Miami Queer Theatre Collective. Her short plays have been produced virtually by New City Players, Theatre Lab, and Femuscripts. She is also a current company member of New City Players, and you can check out her theatre blog at ilanaintheatreland.com!