By Lilly Andrews, editor
By Gianina Fan, editor
Though it only opened for one night, Maria Carrillo High School’s second haunted house, The Coven’s Curse, was a smashing success. The show followed the witch trials of the late 1600s, genuinely frightening audiences. The interactive performance was written by MCHS seniors and dedicated drama students Nicki Watt and Meljeanne Mero.
The show opened with a witch shop, with seniors Ian McLaughlin, Abby Garcia and Sophie Carlton introducing the storyline on a lighthearted, yet somewhat eerie, beat. The audience is introduced to the storyline and setting by cleverly comical exposition, drawing the showgoers into the setting of a mystical town crawling with witch hunters. McLaughlin stole the scene with his grand gestures and grandiose affect. Garcia’s interactions with McLaughlin sent the audience into laughter, misleading them for the rest of the show. Garcia’s nervousness provided the perfect contrast to McLaughlin’s insistent earnesty. Carlton’s character’s tired apathy also adds a comedic note. But, the reveal of the hanged skeleton at the end cuts the humor from the scene, leading into the eerie tone of the rest of the show.
The witch’s shop, decorated like the room of an apothecary, was designed stunningly. The hanging lights, reminiscent of Harry Potter’s floating lights, were a nice added touch along with the warm tones of draping curtains and little knick-knacks like potion bottles, plastic body parts and skeletal frogs. The scenery transformed the entire room, properly immersing the audience.
After the witch-hunters lead the group of audience members into the theater, chills immediately pervade the air. As the audience sat directly in front of a witch who was put on trial, sophomore Chris Pimentel’s thundering voice and freshman Sabrina Merritt’s pleading screams overtake the audience.
Next, the audience was led into a tight jail cell and closed in. Freshman Spencer Hayes, another witch with gory makeup plastered over her face, appears suddenly, hands clutching the bars of the jail cell as she warns the audience of what is to come. As she let the audience out, people immediately took in a witch, played by sophomore Grace Ginn, laying on the ground as if she were dead. Suddenly, she began to contort, reaching out for the audience, sending them running right into the clutches of freshman Kiana Palermo, playing a haunted little girl. Her eerie gestures and voice was perfect. She had a plan for every scenario of reaction from audience members.
The audience walks towards further into the dark, stopping in front of a gruesome scene. A priest, played by Chilo Jimenez, warned the spectators of what happens to witches. The lack of light leaves the scene in a darkened shadow. He points to the executioner, played by senior Joey Hakel, who tortures a witch, played by Carly Every, by taking an ax to her leg. The set itself was frightening, but Every’s convincingly wretched screams made the scene.
The final scene was played by three witches. The same creepy vibe continued to the end, but became confusing and slightly abrupt. Two of the witches wanted to refuse to perform a spell which would wreak chaos, but the third forces them to commit the horrendous act. One of the witches collapses, killed by the power of the spell. The remaining witches warn the viewers of the danger they’re in, and then are quickly shuffled into the drama hallway. The last scene was a little confusing, as the witches disagreed among themselves but in the end joined in the ritual.
As the audience is ushered into the brightly lit drama hall, a sigh of relief is collectively felt. The haunted house is over…or so they thought. At the very last moment, senior Faith Murray, a rogue witch with blood running down her face and leaves in her hair, jumps out, getting the final scream out of audiences.
The entire experience was immersive apart from the very end. The bright hallway perhaps took participants out of the experience too quickly to feel thoroughly spooked and appreciate the full experience. With no time to decompress, the ending felt a little rushed.
Overall, the Haunt was as atmospheric, and exciting as it was last year, including eerie sets, costumes, and great acting which was both humorous and creepy. The performance was especially well-prepared and clean considering the challenges the drama department faced due to the fires and school being cancelled due to the smoke. Once again MCHS drama proved itself as a strong program, and for the first time, put on a performance completely written by students.