Review: ‘The Best Haunted House Ever’ at Encore Stage & Studio

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The Best Haunted House Ever, written by Houston playwright Pat Cook, depicts two groups of high school students, one from Jenkins High and the other from Hoover High, who visit the former residence of Biology Professor Jarvis Stitch to make the best haunted house in history. However, as the story unfolds the students find that the mansion and Professor Stitch may be out to get them as many strange and paranormal events happen.

"The Best Haunted House Ever" cast. Photo by Larry McClemons.
“The Best Haunted House Ever” cast. Photo by Larry McClemons.

Directed by Susan Alison Keady, Encore Stage & Studio did a remarkable job performing this eerie comedy. All of the performers were extremely well-paced with their lines, going at the perfect speed and articulation for each situation their character encountered. The performers were perceptively comfortable with their characters and knew just the way to react to each spook and each line. Max Belmar (Clyde) and Nicholas Boone (Nick) portrayed their roles quite naturally and convincingly.

Throughout the story there were witty, sarcastic, and sassy lines. Caroline Coleman was particularly notable for her performance as Pru, the intelligent sarcastic student. Josh Ramthun, playing Sherman, really cracked up the audience, and Jackson Dove, as Murphy, showed some excellent comic timing.

The set, designed by Kristen Jepperson, consisted of flats, a staircase, a second story with an exit hallway, and four working doors (with an extra surprise). The set looked amazingly old-fashioned and had the perfect Scooby-doo feeling to it.

The cast, crew, and production team of 'The Best Haunted House Ever!' Photo by Larry McClemons.
The cast, crew, and production team of ‘The Best Haunted House Ever!’ Photo by Larry McClemons.

The lighting by Gary Hauptman was chilling with its flickering lights and sudden blackouts. It was also technically impressive as well, as it had five practical light fixtures controlled by the light and sound booth. The sound, by Vander Lockett), was terrifying as well with unnerving creaky doors and mysterious footsteps in the dark. The combination of lighting and sound created spectacular special effects like booming thunderstorms and ghostly moans with flickering lights that brought a shiver down my spine. And finally, the costumes, designed by Debra Leonard, were simple yet effective in describing who the characters were: a jock, a nerd, two twins. etc..

The Best Haunted House Ever was absolutely entertaining, at times scary, and totally hilarious!

Running Time: 90 minutes, with an intermission.

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The Best Haunted House Ever plays through October 23, 2016 at Encore Stage & Studio, performing at Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre – 125 South Old Glebe Road, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 548-1154, or purchase them online.