This year, Halloween falls on a Saturday. With a full moon. A blue moon, in fact. It’s a Halloween worthy of dressing up, venturing out, howling at the night sky.
Unfortunately, all of that is complicated by COVID-19 and the continued need for social distancing. This is not the year for crowds in close quarters.
Enter The Fox & Beggar Theater — back from a long hiatus in the Asheville area. The group, led by Nat Allister, presents the gorgeously haunting OMEN: The Death & Burial of Poor Cock Robin. Based on the English nursery rhyme “Who Killed Cock Robin” (a murder poem fit for a much more noir era of childhood), The Fox & Beggar’s show is an elaborate work of immersive theater staged at The Hawk & Hawthorne in Barnardsville. It’s socially distanced, held outside, and masks (included with each ticket) are incorporated into the show.
Without giving too much away, here are the basics: Audience members arrive at the appointed time (tickets are sold by time slots as viewers enter the course staggered and solo). At check in, sparrow-skull masks and candles are handed out and a waiver signed (this is COVID era). Viewers make their way to a lovely barn, decorated in dried flowers and fairy lights, where they’re greeted by the undertaker. Hot cider and sweets are available by donation prior to entering the last rites for Cock Robin.
The immersion begins in the barn and audience members follow a trail of low lights into the basement and then out to lawn, gazebo, fields, and woods, under an array of stars. The Milkyway is on full display: Do look up. But also take in every stop on the adventure. Each stanza in the Cock Robin poem is animated by an elaborate setting. In one, a figure in red performs a dirge on a fiddle from within the confines of a massive spiderweb. In another, a woman plays a toy piano half-submerged in a pond. There, fish wriggle on lines and in nets. A grandfather clock lists in the water. A supine corpse floats above the scene. It’s eerie and haunting, but not gory. Here, death is an elegant mystery; a fantastical world to be explored by candles, sound installations, and the backdrop of pastoral nature.
Created in a mere six weeks by Allister, Rachel Eilts and Connor Scalzi, the setting of OMEN is rich, transportive, and meditative. It’s a return to the deeper meaning of All Hallow’s Eve: a communion with the departed, but also a celebration of life in all its strangeness and nuance and dark beauty.
The cast includes Scalzi, Claire Dima, Marisa Kochac, Madelyn Ilana, Daniel McFly, Ahnika Meyer-Wilde, Ryan O’Sullivan, and a team of contributing artists. Shows continue Fridays and Saturday, Oct. 23, 24, 30, and 31. $22.