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2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘The Apocalypse of Darkness’

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The Hashish Eater, the dark, lovecraftian epic poem by Clark A. Smith upon which The Apocalypse of Darkness is based, is a beautiful and terrifying piece. It is vivid and it forces itself into a person’s mind in a manner few people are equipped to deal with.

The prospect of turning this work into a performance is intriguing. The Apocalypse of Darkness sets out to do just that, and it acts as an interesting introduction to the poem for those who have never read it and a fresh take for those who have.

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The poem follows a near hallucinatory story of cosmic entities, unnatural monsters, and great civilizations in decline and destroyed, and director Emanuel Wazar incorporates various types of media into the production, a recitation of the original work. Eerie music and a running projection of various macabre and celestial pictures (and a few videos) accompany the text alongside the minimalist set, invoking Smith’s eldritch universe, and the actors went to great lengths to memorize a mind-boggling amount (totaling around 600 iambic lines).

Each actor has a single, giant monologue determined by dividing up the poem into sections based on story and archetype, and they try to imbue their speeches with meaning, feeling, and physicality; some stand outs include The Prophet (Clifford Cartel), who conjures a deep despair at the great end of the Earth, and The Soldier (Kate McGowan), who artfully uses hand-gestures to reveal the dead world she finds herself in. While the production might have incorporated more connections between characters and more action overall, it still breathes some life into a story that has for so long been relegated to words on a page.

The original poem and the performance both use intensely vivid, archaic language in an attempt to confuse and entrap the reader and the viewer; both harvest from a strange history of storytelling to create an Apocalypse of language and images; both present a mysterious tale that few could imagine in their worst nightmares. Such a project, to adapt The Hashish Eater for the stage, would be a massive undertaking for any theatre group. That Wazar and his cast try, where very few would even dare, is very, very admirable.

Running Time: 65 minutes, with no intermission.

The Apocalypse of Darkness is playing through Saturday, July 23, 2016 at the MLK Jr Memorial Library – 901 G Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online.

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Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2016 Capital Fringe Page.

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