Cup-A-Jo Productions along with Pittsburgh Fringe debuted their third installment of Unhinged this past weekend at Aftershock Theatre. What they’ve coined as, “Pittsburgh’s only Halloween Theatre,” the experience blends theatre with elements of a haunted house. Each year, the company chooses a different theme for the experience, and this year, Unhinged features classic beloved horror stories such as The Yellow Wallpaper, The Thing in the Cellar, and Jabberwocky. Whether a fan of theatre, the macabre, or both, audiences are sure to be bewitched by Unhinged.
To explain Unhinged simply without giving too much away, audiences are taken from their traditional roles as observers to active participants. The experience seamlessly blends the eerie, unsettling nature of a haunted house with several vignette performances. The stories chosen for this year’s Unhinged are “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the story of a woman dealing with postpartum depression, “The Thing in the Cellar,” a creepy tale of an unknown entity living in the home of an unsuspecting family, and “Jabberwocky,” a Lewis Carroll poem about a strange creature that lurks in the night. While this may seem like quite the undertaking, Cup-A-Jo makes it seem effortless, and is able to present a unique and hauntingly beautiful experience.
I had no idea what was in store for me when I entered Aftershock Theatre. This would be my first time experiencing Unhinged, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was initially turned off when I read participants would have to sign a waiver before entering, and that it would have elements of a haunted house. I was apprehensive that it would end up being a bunch of jump scares and cheap tricks. However, they completely subverted my expectations and delivered a fantastic show that had me on my toes all night.
Having been to Aftershock Theatre before, I knew it would be the perfect space for this production. It’s the kind of place you would 100% believe is haunted. As someone who loves old buildings, it was a treat to get to explore the space and see it come alive through the performances. If you have been to this venue before, let’s just say this time around you’ll get to see the space in a more intimate way.
Unhinged is packed with a powerhouse cast, and from start to finish they provide a beautiful, strange, and unsettling experience that sticks with you long after the show ends. Matt Henderson and Joanna Lowe deliver stellar performances in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Lowe is tasked with going to a dark, ugly place, and she does so in a beautifully realistic way. She doesn’t hold back in this role, and her performance goes all the way and then some. Matt Henderson’s performance in the final scene is so raw and emotional; his energy radiates off him, and can be felt across the room. Another fine actor of the night was our lovely host/guide who I believe was just referred to as No One of Great Importance. Played by Casey Cunningham, he brought major Phantom vibes to the role, which made him both mysterious and intriguing. He was the perfect narrator and guide for the evening, and helped encapsulate the whole feel of the production. The ensemble brought a ton of heart and energy to the show, and even though many of them took on double roles throughout the evening, they managed to make each story shine. The show itself is a group effort, and I know without this exceptional cast the show could not have been as successful as it was.
Unhinged is a one-of-a-kind experience that should become a new Halloween tradition for Pittsburgh theatre/Halloween enthusiasts. This experience has ruined haunted houses for me, and I know I’ll always compare any I enter to this production. It’s truly a unique show that deserves to be appreciated for the work and creativity put into it. It’s clear that everyone involved is very passionate about this project, and I’m sure worked tirelessly to make it a reality. If you’re looking for the perfect spooky fall activity, I would highly recommend visiting the ghosts and ghouls over at Unhinged.
Unhinged plays at Aftershock Theatre through November 9.
Jade Goodes is a graduate of Penn State University where she received her degree in English. While attending Penn State she became the Managing Editor for the school’s literary & arts magazine, Absence. Jade has been involved with the Pittsburgh theater community since elementary school, and has performed in many productions over the years. In her free time she enjoys reading and attending all the concerts she can.
Categories: Archived Reviews