The fact that it was a dark and stormy night the evening I ventured onto a sketchy stretch of Toronto’s Queen Street East to find the secret locale in which was being staged Eldritch Theatre’s newest production, Doc Wuthergloom’s Haunted Medicine Show, only added to the sense of anticipation and apprehension I felt as I approached the venue, gave the secret knock, and whispered the password to gain entrance.
Concocted by local dark-minded theatrical scallywag Erick Woolfe (Madhouse Variations, Sideshow of the Damned), this one-man show (save for the pre- and post-show hawking of Doc Wuthergloom’s Home Exorcism Almanac by the Doc’s lovely and persistent assistant) finds Woolfe himself in top form and top hat in the role of Doctor Pretorius Wuthergloom. A skeleton-faced carnie-cum-trickster with a deep knowledge of the arcane, Wuthergloom uses puppets and simple props to tell spooky stories of madness, lost love, and revenge from beyond the grave. Woolfe – or Wuthergloom – is also an accomplished magician, and his card tricks and sleights of hand are all in aid of selling us his almanac (only a measly five dollars)… all for our own protection, of course, against the malevolent forces being called upon this evening.
The fact that Wolfe can make us shiver as well as shake with laughter is a testament to not only the strength of his writing, which calls upon the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft and his ideas of old gods and revenge from beyond the grave, but also to the power of lighting, sound and suggestion. Doc Wuthergloom’s Haunted Medicine Show is a fine-tuned little theatrical engine best seen in a small venue like this where Wuthergloom himself can reach out and pluck you from the audience – if you are female that is.
Doc Wuthergloom’s Haunted Medicine Show runs until November 6. Tickets are available for sale online at www.eldritchtheatre.ca, and the location of the show is only revealed to those brave enough to buy a ticket. Be brave.