Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor
A Contemporary Theatre
Review by David Edward Hughes

Mandy Price, Ben DeLaCreme, and Scott Shoemaker
Photo by Courtesy of ACT Theatre
I cannot pinpoint exactly when Halloween evolved into a much more adult celebration than it was in my 1960s childhood. Last season I missed out on attending Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor, written, directed, produced (in partnership with ACTLab) and starring brassy drag artiste Ben DeLaCreme, who competed on "RuPaul's Drag Race" and "RuPaul's Drag Race: All Stars." This return (and somewhat revised) engagement is a tangy witch's brew of macabre-flavored drag, burlesque, and dance elements, and appeals to a wide audience demographic.

The ingenious Gaylord Manner set designed by Jennifer Zeyl and Reiko Huffman is clearly a loving homage to the Disney Haunted Mansion, into which the frightened and seemingly innocent Patsy Jejune (Ben DeLaCreme), Dr. Dudley Dewey Darlington (Mandy Price) and his zaftig and butch spouse Lenora (Scott Shoemaker) are welcomed by the eccentric and musically adept Count Baron Von Gaylord (Major Scales). Before you can say "boo!," a parade of ghosts, skeletons, a stud werewolf, a mummy and Von Gaylord's dead and kickin' mommy are unloosed, and a murder most foul takes place before the act one curtain. Act two delves deeper into Patsy's troubled psyche and Leonora's sexual peccadillos, as this horror comedy wends its way to a zany conclusion.

DeLaCreme doesn't go for slapstick in his carefully developed role of Patsy, the terrorized protagonist of the tale, and his detailed performance is a send-up of 1930s and '40s heroines, particularly Joan Fontaine as the nameless second Mrs. de Winter in Hitchcock's Rebecca, while Shoemaker's predatory Lenora is akin to the lesbian housekeeper Mrs. Danvers in that same film. Major Scales as Count Baron Von Gaylord is delicious, part Liberace and part Norman Bates, in addition to singing and tickling the keyboards on an opening/closing song of his own creation. Mandy Price nails the bumbling, overly chatty Dr. Darlington, Faggedy Randy as the wolfman hunk delivers an unforgettably campy male striptease, and Jason Mondine masterfully manipulates (and designed) the Mother Gaylord Puppet.

The remaining ensemble delves deliciously into a number of burlesque-style dance routines, though about 10 minutes of this could be excised and this would tighten up the show considerably. Christopher Balder's property designs and set decorations are aces, and the all-important lighting design by the accomplished Robert J. Aguilar is eerily expert.

Beware the Terror of Gaylord Manor, through October 31, 2018, at ACT Theatre in the Bullitt Cabaret, 700 Union Street, Seattle WA. For ticket reservations, show times and more go to