Theatre Review: “Who is the Lunatic Here?”


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H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, written by Dan Spurgeon (based on the book by H.P. Lovecraft); produced by The Visceral Company: seen October 3, 2014


As you walk into The Visceral Company’s intimate theatre space, the set – aligned with a plethora of books, crates, and other various props – is overwhelmed by a mystical circle drawn on the floor. What else would you expect for a theatrical production of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu?

Adapted by and starring Frank Blocker and developed and directed by Dan Spurgeon, the production is based on two of Lovecraft’s short stories, primarily “The Call of Cthulhu”. Set up as a one-man show in true storytelling technique, we are presented by a man telling us of going through the papers of his late uncle, an archeologist, who found a strange idol … and the resulting mystery of it, the cult that worships a sleeping god, and the terror that awaits us should he ever awaken.

Blocker is outstanding portraying nine different characters, from a New Orleans cop to a Norwegian sailor. He easily slips in and out of the various characters like you would a suit. Each character is distinctly different, and it’s an acting tour de force for Blocker.

Frank Blocker. Photo courtesy The Visceral Company.

As with The Visceral Company’s production of Lovecraft: Nightmare Suite last October, the use of a scrim and shadow puppets do an excellent job of incorporating various elements of the story, and Joshua Silva’s lighting design straddles the perfect line of being effective without being intrusive. And while Tyler Burton and Dan Spurgeon’s sound design was well done, the organization could do well to think about incorporating speakers within the house itself to make said sound truly impressive.

The only downside to the show is when we first see Cthulhu. It’s fairly noticeably a puppet, strings visible and a bit of a choppy performance. The production needs to take advice from itself — “the most frightening of all: the unknown” — and give us only a glimpse instead. Later, when they use the shadow puppet concept instead, it is much more powerful. (However, I do admit that I thoroughly enjoyed how they incorporated tech in the ending, which I won’t explain so as not to spoil it.)

Lovecraft is all about a sense of controlled madness: for the most part, The Visceral Company does a great job of showing it. Let’s just hope that summoning circle is just decoration, otherwise the inhuman screams are better left to the imagination.

H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ runs at The Visceral Company in Los Angeles until November 9, and is 75 minutes long without an intermission. Tickets are $20, and more information can be found at

UPDATE: This production has been extended through December 7.