The Fantastically Dark “Dark Fantastic”

Review of 18th & Union’s Dark Fantastic, written by Teen Editorial Staff Member Josh F, and edited by Teen Editorial Staff Member Huma A!

The Dark Fantastic at 18th & Union. Photo by Tony Beeman.

I'm not someone who's really into horror. It's just not something I grew up having, and nowadays, it seems to be rapidly dropping in quality. I’m also not someone who's really into improv. I've always liked the idea, but, as a newcomer, the thought of audience interaction always seemed too intimidating. So when I went to see Dark Fantastic, a horror improv show, I really had no idea what to expect. I only knew the show combined horror with improv, a primarily humour driven art, so it interested me quite a bit.

The theatre was small—49-max-occupants-small, to be specific—with sheets of cellophane covering brick walls, foreshadowing the gory fates that lay ahead. When the show started, the audience was asked two questions. First, “What is your biggest fear?” (to which someone replied, “A Roomba”), and, second, “What is an object you would find in your grandmother's house?” Answer? “ A Doily.”


The Dark Fantastic at 18th & Union. Photo by Tony Beeman.

The show I saw revolved around Jackie, a woman with a gambling problem who enlisted the aid of a robot named Robert, created by her computer scientist mother, Margaret, to collect money to pay off Jackie’s debt. However, things went south when it was revealed that the robot obtained the money by killing their neighbors. With debt collectors closing in, Jackie and Margaret formed an unstable alliance with Robert to defeat the intruders, even though he could have turned on them at any moment. And there was also a doily sewn at some point.

The entire package felt totally tailored to the audience’s requests and spun a story that felt so coherent I wouldn't have known it was improv unless I’d seen the word on the poster. Speaking of which, one of the features of the show that I felt didn't get represented enough in the marketing was its humour. While this may have changed from show to show, I personally felt the show was far more funny than it was scary, which honestly bummed me out a little. While the humour and performances were great (Robert being especially funny and one of the best robots I've seen in theater), one of the reasons this show initially grabbed me was because I wanted to see how horror could be improvised. However, I have no idea how improv works, and the prompts we gave the improvisers were admittedly goofy and difficult to work with, so the lack of horror is understandable.


The Dark Fantastic at 18th & Union. Photo by Tony Beeman.

Even though it wasn't what I expected, I enjoyed the show regardless. I deeply admired how the cast managed to build a whole new world during the show, while also remembering the parts of the world they had already created. It opened my eyes to how improv causes actors to interact with their characters in a unique manner; they are forced to have a deep understanding of their character in order to shape the plot through intention-driven decisions.

The highest praise I can give to a piece of art is that it made me want to see it again, and with the variability of each performance, that is definitely the case with the Dark Fantastic.


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Comments (1)

The stage wall were covered in plastic, so I was expecting more gore as well, but since I am a bit squeamish, I was relieved to laugh instead.

By Chirpa on October 4, 2018 at 1:05 am

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