“Tomes of Terror: Beyond Grimm”

Presented by the Post-Meridian Radio Players
“A Hare-Raising Tale” by Naomi Hinchen, directed by J. Deschene
“The Myling” by Adrian Cory, directed by Tegan Kehoe
“The Boy Who Drew Cats” by Greg Lam, directed by Laura Corliss
“La Siguanaba” by Liz Salazar, directed by Joye Thaller

October 25th – November 2, 2019
Boston Brunch Church (formerly Responsible Grace)
204 Elm Street, Somerville, MA
PMRP on Facebook

Review by Piyali Mukherjee

(Somerville, MA) On Friday night, the Post Meridian Radio Players presented their Tomes of Terror: Beyond Grimm dramatized radio show at the Boston Brunch Church. The stories, collected from Norway, Ireland, Japan and Honduras, were presented as a show-case. The show provided a visual spectacle with a visible foley team and all actors in costume.

The Hare-Raising Tale (Ireland)
Written by Naomi Hinchen, directed by J. Deschene, with Brie Frame and Vickie Wu at the Foley

With all the spooky forewarnings that the audience received, The Hare-Raising Tale had a strong comic tone over a terrifying one. The internal banter between the characters drew focus away from the ominous prospect of a hare-shaped fiend capable of evicting an entire household. The hare protagonist was summoned on stage using a “boing” sort of sound that was more amusing rather than terrifying. 

By dismissing the fiend’s appearances as “drunken stories”, the writing de-emphasized the terror one could feel by actually encountering such a creature. I also found the narration somewhat confusing at times, since the narrator and the hare-protagonist were rendered by the same cast member (Jules Wyse) and often had entire portions of the text to themselves. The tale ended on an allegorical note, which grounded the story in the realm of one man’s foolish gambling choices rather than the realm of a possibly-malevolent spectre. 

The Myling (Norway)
Written by Adrian Cory, directed by Tegan Kehoe, with Brie Frame and Vickie Wu at the Foley

The Myling tackled a much darker narrative. Director Kehoe states in the notes that they attempted to strike a fine balance between talking about a sensitive topic and delivering a thrilling tale. I believe they successfully delivered this with the story’s unique narration, exposition and detailed character work. 

The narration of the story focused significantly more on thematic developments rather than those of the characters. For example, instead of making clear that the siblings Johannes (Finley Smith) and Marte (Naomi Ibasitas) were about to discover that the evil spirit was also one of a child’s, the narration merely points to the first moment of betrayal a child can feel in a parent’s care. 

The exposition of the story happens through quick cut scenes and layered metaphors. The story also arrives at the myth by using the story-within-a-story platform. The very fact that Johannes, the older male child, lands upon choosing to hear this particular story for bed-time upsets the father and reveals the domestic tension behind their seemingly ideal family life.

Very early on, the character work establishes which parent is preferred by the children, which child enjoys what preferences and how the children relate to each other. This easy establishment allows them to raise the emotional stakes significantly when the parents’ relationship unravels over the ethics of euthanizing a child they could not support. 

Finally, The Myling also tackles the notion of revenge. If a vengeful spirit seeks retribution via murdering the very host that is supporting it’s being, then how does the spirit ever achieve fulfillment? The tale ends with a horrifying reveal and the revelation that one should never let “the guilt possess you.” 

The Boy Who Drew Cats (Japan)
Written by Greg Lam, directed by Laura Corliss with Stacie Stone and Meg Wickham at the Foley

The first show after the intermission immediately followed a departure from Europe. The Boy Who Drew Cats was adapted from a 19th century Japanese folk tale. There was a very noticeable lack of representation among the cast for this particular episode. The director’s notes for this show mentioned that they worked hard to honor the source material without appropriating it, and addressed this casting deficiency as an invitation for other Asian-American performers to audition. While there are many elements of the portrayal that were admirable, I do not believe such intentions carried through the execution clearly. 

The character work felt incomplete because the emotional tone of the protagonist seemed unclear. Given that Japanese monasteries were places of learning and often exacting discipline, the Boy’s responses to many of the requests and demands made of him by the Abbot (Kane Harper) seemed to miss an emotional tone, whether deference or defiance. The emotional continuity also felt jarring when the Boy (Nadia Lebrun) continued to get distracted by his cat phantoms.

Having an actor from a Japanese background would have better fit the gaps in the emotional transition for the Boy as he adapts to his circumstances. This inconsistency seemed to also carry forth in the tone of address by the abbot and by the parents. Were they frustrated with the Boy? Had they resigned to his pursuit of his art? It felt as though the actors were holding back from becoming the characters, for reasons cultural or otherwise. 

Of all of the four stories represented, this one began with the strongest tone of a fable with the classic opening of “Once Upon A Time”. The narrators and the characters used repetition to emphasize character choices and actions very effectively. The narrator (Anjie Parker) carried the tone of the story well as the story follows the youngest son of a hard working farmer’s family as he obsesses about drawing cats. This story also contained the only benevolent spirit protagonist of the showcase presented. 

The foley work of this episode, which was rendered by Stacie “Red” Stone and Meg Wickham and which was designed by Michael and Jamie Lin, was particularly excellent. Not only was it an excellent use of celery but also the gnawing noises of the beast felt very lifelike. The atmosphere of the monastery was made evident through the repeated looping track of the Lotus Sutra and the paper-sounds emphasized the calligraphy and library-heavy nature of the story. 

La Siguanaba (Honduras)
Written by Elizabeth Salazar, directed by Joye Thaller with Stacie Stone and Meg Wickham at the Foley

The closing show of the night was perhaps the one with the strongest political message. Spanning a narrative that included the current immigration border crisis and colonization to domestic abuse. La Siguanaba begins with the anxiety and trauma that refugees and asylum seekers at the southern border experience daily, and launches directly into the time when a Bostonian colonizer tried to clear a sacred traditional forest for a pineapple plantation. 

The exposition of the story was refreshingly light as many of the characters carry the backstories of the other people’s lives in their dialog. For example, Héctor (Kenny Garcia) tells the drunken Adolfo (Phil Pierre-Louis) that “everyone is aware” of how he treats his wife, Suyapa (Rashi Verma). This sets the precedence for Adolfo’s reputation. The story also contained one particular repeating comedic bit about how the drunkenness of the workers on the plantation clearing would never be as bad as Boston because they “had no prohibition here”. 

The character portrayal was particularly evocative and raised questions of whether the Siguanaba spirit should be feared or revered. The Siguanaba character (Rajita Menon) lures the unsuspecting victims by the moonlight with a haunting song and is used to explore the consequences of revenge, particularly generational crimes against women and against the earth. 

The Siguanaba seems to exclusively target “bad men” who are “womanizers, adulterers, batterers” and apparently colonists. The moral origins of the spirit is also explored as the Siguanaba comes to represent women who have “wronged” society by being wronged themselves or seeking agency in forms they were denied. 

The dialog of other characters also carry the weight of their emotional labor. For example, Suyapa must reconcile a public grief at the loss of her husband combined with the residual trauma that his abuse left her and a young daughter with. Donya Flavia (Anjie Parker) must reconcile her role as a liaison between the people and the colonizers; she knows she enables the colonization but she believes that her efforts will bring economic stability to her region and that “half of the trees are gone anyway, they’ll keep coming until they have them all”. 

The story ends by bringing the audience back to the asylum crisis at our border. From deportation to concerns about their children, the narrator assumes a collective refugee voice that discusses the true nature of fear. “Everyone has something to fear and fear is what keeps us alive”. The show concludes with the idea that fear can be more than a glamorous, or spooky or fun festival, and that fear can be actualized as a true drive to live. 

Runtime: 2hrs with one 15min intermission

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