Having only briefly heard a mention of Howard Phillip (H.P.) Lovecraft in a high school literature class many years ago, I really had no idea what to expect walking into the Maker Theater for the first time on Friday night for 12 Peers latest production, Lovecraft’s Monsters. The building itself was very quaint and until the extremely friendly artistic director and stage manager, Vince Ventura and Sara Fisher, greeted me with a complementary beer I thought I might be barging into someone’s colorful Ellsworth Avenue apartment. The theater was equally as cozy as I settled into a seat along with about 10 other audience members there to see the show that evening. I usually enjoy an intimate setting such as this, but the fact that I was on the back end of a week-long seasonal coughing spree made me feel a bit disruptive (my apologies to anyone in the theater that night that agreed). Nevertheless, I was excited to see what the night had in store.
After a brief greeting by Ventura we were immediately thrust into the mind of H.P. Lovecraft as portrayed by David Crawford. It was clear from some initial unorganized, but coherent rambling that Lovecraft was an anxious man. After a brief glimpse into this aspect of his personality, we are taken back into the earlier years of Lovecraft’s life at home in Providence with his mother and aunts. It was clear through several interactions with his mother that their relationship was not central to the foundation of Lovecraft’s being, but the passing of Lovecraft’s grandfather is what truly troubled his young adult life as is mentioned in several biographies about the writer. We begin to see Lovecraft’s emergence into poetry and writing in the midst of his grandfather’s passing.
The next integral part of Lovecraft’s journey that is portrayed through Crawford is the writer’s marriage to Sonia Greene and relocation to New York. This is where we truly begin to see the extent of Lovecraft’s reclusive and unique personality. Due to his nighttime adventures and adverse lifestyle he is unable to make the relationship work and moves back to Providence. He seems to have little to look forward to there other than a mere single piece of literary work being published for a dollar, making the audience aware that much of Lovecraft’s fame did not take place during his lifetime and he was often scraping by for essentials such as food and clothing. Crawford’s portrayal of this makes it very easy to sympathize with the writer.
The stage setting was very minimal including only a few objects such as a stool, black table, and notebook. Although Crawford did very well to make up for the lack of sensory scenery with his narrative dialogue it might’ve been nice to see a little more prop usage or backdrops on stage. The lighting was clear and concise, but not all that dynamic and I didn’t even realize there were sound effect capabilities until the final scenes. I’m not sure if this was due to lack of resources (which I can relate to since my bank account is bordering on the negative right now) or if this minimalist approach was meant to reflect Lovecraft’s attitude/possessions, but there were certainly scenes where I felt like this was appropriate and others I felt could’ve used a little more.
The final scenes were extremely compelling and excellently performed. Without giving too much away, Crawford decides to put a twist on Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth to wrap up the writer’s tale. To me, it was perfect way to blend the life, hardships, and troubling personality traits that followed the writer throughout his life. Not many can pull off a one-man show, but Crawford did so exquisitely.
Written and performed by David Crawford
Lighting Design, Sound Design, and Board Operator: Vince Ventura
Stage Manager: Sara Fisher
Props & Costumes: David Crawford
Special thanks to 12 Peers Theater for a complimentary press ticket. Lovecraft’s Monsters runs through March 21, tickets can be purchased here.