‘very still and hard to see’ a larger-than-life thriller
A dimly lit stage crawls with masked monsters and a female form of great height as jarring sound crashes around you and pieces of fabric set fly, the scene throws you into another world. A world of ghosts, monsters and deals with the devil. “Very Still and Hard to See,” by Steve Yockey is not a play for those searching for a happy ending – or even a greater moral, though it may have one. It is a play to give you goosebumps and chills.
The plot is not truly solid, but a series of short stories. This Asian-influenced set of Twilight Zone-style tales is strung together in the framework of a hotel setting – from its construction to its demolition. Showcasing Yockey’s Asian and modern influences, the play feels in places like Kabuki theater, and in other spots much like a modern horror film.
The Shepherd University Theater department production of this new play, as directed by Joshua Midgett, features an impressive set that has actors coming out of it from places you cannot imagine, a lighting and sound design that enhances the terror you feel from the costumes and situations.
Scenic designer Chase Molden presents a set with just enough size and detail to make the small black box space of The Marinoff Theater feel like a larger arena, and make the actors seem to come from nowhere, as their entrances are so well disguised. Trent Kugler’s sound and lighting designs along with the music by Shepherd Art student Cassidy Ponton set moods of foreboding and surprise throughout the show. In addition to providing music, Poton also graces the stage as Edith, a somewhat unhinged vacationer.
All the student actors under Midgett’s direction excel in their roles, from a creepy elevator operator portrayed by sophomore Nathan Craig, to a mythical Japanese-style demoness Obake, portrayed by freshmen Abby Rice. Each character is wonderfully three dimensional and believable.
The highlight performance is by far Rice’s Obake who creates the framework for the story set by appearing in multiple places. Obake is larger than life and her unique costume design, by Peggy McKowen, alongside Rice’s thrilling bargain-making devil performance, make her worthy of the legends she is designed to represent.
The full production was well worth the watch for any with a love of thriller, horror – or Asian myth.