The Haunting of Row House – a review of HOLLOW MOON, Vigilance Theater Group

Mike Buzzelli

By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant.  

Strangers gather in a venerable and stately house on a hill (at an undisclosed location in hipster Lawrenceville). The enigmatic Jack Warrington (John Feightner) has called together this motley crew to play a deadly, little parlor game in Sean Collier’s immersive theater experience, “Hollow Moon”

Warrington’s guests include a Tarot card reader, Theodora Court (Lee Lytle); ghost hunter, Dr. Cedric Montague (Michael McBurney); gruff mystery man, Luke Hollywood (Tyler Ray Kendrick) and flustered flibbertigibbet, Eleanor Abbot (Ashley McKinney). If the names sound familiar, you might recognize them from Shirley Jackson’s gothic horror novel “The Haunting of Hill House.” “Hollow Moon” is an homage to Jackson’s spine-tingling story.

In “Hollow Moon,” Each of four strangers has a surreptitious connection to Warrington, but what happens next is a mystery. Whether this pot-boiler simmers or bubbles over, depends largely on the audience, because the audience are active participants in the show. Each audience member can contribute to the story as much or as little has he/she chooses.

It’s not your typical Choose Your Own Adventure/Murder Mystery/Ghost Story. Can such a genre-bender even be typical?

There’s a big reveal that can’t be spoiled, but – let’s just say – there’s also a disturbing reference Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery.”

Eleanor (Ashley McKinney) recounts her ghost story while a mysterious visitor (Karen Forney) lurks in the background. Photo credit: Renee Rabenbold

Collier has written a tight script, but there are chances for the actors to go in several different directions. It’s tautly directed by Renee Rabenold.

The cast (including Karen Forney in a secret role) is terrific.

Kendrick is masterful as Luke Hollywood. He’s a dynamic actor. It’s easy to get swept up in the story as he tramples around the house, looking for some secret that can help him escape his fate.

McKinney is a joy. She is deeply immersed in the immersive experience. She effortlessly blurs the line between fact and fiction and you begin to believe her plight.

Feightner is maniacal as Warrington. He is larger-than-life in his cameo role.

There are very fine performances by McBurney and Lytle, and spooky special effects by Aaron Tarnow (he’s credited with technical direction, set design and artistic design).

Vigilance Theater Group is new to Pittsburgh’s burgeoning immersive theater scene, but they hit the ground running with their first show, “Hollow Moon.”

If you venture out to “Hollow Moon,” you will get one warning, that will sound a lot like a non-sequitur from Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” YA novels, “May the odds be in your favor!”

– MB

For more information about “Hollow Moon,” head over to Vigilance Theater Group’s website here.

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