Reviews

EDITED REVIEWS and QUOTES OF PHANTASMAGORIA I – October 2010

 

 Photo by Kristen Wheeler“The Empty Spaces Theatre Co. lead us into the Halloween season with a charming evening of entertainment called Phantasmagoria” – Al Krulick, Orlando Weekly

Something wicked this way comes in the form of “Phantasmagoria,” a dance-storytelling-puppetry entertainment created and directed by John DiDonna for his Empty Spaces Theatre Co. And this pastiche of stylish costumes, lowbrow puppet humor and scary stories is quite good at being wicked. . .Scary never seemed so stylish.”  – Matt Palm, Orlando Sentinel

“With a considerable amount of visual flair, some truly laugh-out-loud moments with the puppets, and a few more lyrical moments from literature’s greats, “Phantasmagoria” presents an adventurous Halloween outing, where you have a lot to keep you watching – the expert dancers, the actors, the costumes and puppets.” –The Ledger

“Every time I see a DiDonna Production, I think “I never knew he could do that.” It’s just friggin’ amazing.”  –  Carl Gauze, INK 19 Archikulture Digest ‘10

 

EDITED REVIEWS and QUOTES OF PHANTASMAGORIA II – Oct 2011

“While the theme parks continue to roll out the same hackneyed spook shows each Halloween season, DiDonna and company travel a vastly more interesting road. Their aim is not to scare you, but rather to enchant your spirit and captivate your senses. I hope that Phantasmagoria becomes a yearly event and that DiDonna and his troupe will continue to find stories to tell and exhilarating ways to tell them. In this season of ghouls and ghosts, there’s no better trick or treat in town.” – Al Krulick,  Orlando Weekly

Photo by Kristen Wheeler

“I was lucky enough to see the Phantasmagoria and I can say it was one of my favorite productions of the year!  It is an amazing event from actors, set, costumes, stories presented!  Gorgeousness and Gothic, just the perfect thing for the season. Don’t miss it!” – Denna Eramo – The Daily City

“Jennifer Bonner’s costumes have taken on a steampunk motif this year — “steampunk” refers to a genre of fantasy that combines Victorian-era style with futuristic elements. So among the decadent reds and somber blacks of the dancers’ dresses and suits are metallic chains and epaulets, strange goggles and shiny buttons.. . .The dancing, choreographed by Nicole Yezzi and Mila Makarova, is more prominent than previously and the rhythmic movements take on a sense of menace with the dancers hidden behind masks. . . .That’s augmented by live music — nothing says Halloween like a mournful solo cello. And the most disturbing moment may be the entire cast, expressions frozen, singing “The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out…” like a dirge.” – Matt Palm, The Orlando Sentinel

Photo by Kristen Wheeler“Using a superb cast of storytellers, dancers, and singers, “Phantasmagoria II” is one of the most fiendishly clever nightmares you’ll ever tumble into. And when it’s over and the lights have come up, and you’re no longer sitting in the eerie darkness, you’ll likely to remember just how invigorating and stimulating brilliant theater truly can be.” – Michael Freeman – freelinemediaorlando.org

“After a full week surrounded by the joys of the Ringling Festival of the Arts in Sarasota, I returned to Central Florida to enjoy the Opening Night of the brilliantly theatrical PHANTASMAGORIA II. With his showman’s love for classic literature combined with low-brow humor, John DiDonna and Company have created what is hopefully an on-going Halloween tradition for Orlando. Using every form of theatricality in his all-encompassing showman’s mind – DiDonna stirs together a witch’s brew of ricality in his all-encompassing showman’s mind — DiDonna stirs together a witch’s brew of breathless, classic literature combined with P.T. Barnum’s showmanship, evocative music, integrated dance and the best costuming of any show this season to create 90 minutes of ever-growing horror. As the tension continued to build, like a kid, I came away feeling — “C’mon, scare me again!” Phantasmagoria II plays through October 30 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8:30 pm with performances at the Shakespeare Center at Loch Haven Park. Call 407-328-9005 Josh Garrick breathless, classic literature combined with P.T. Barnum’s showmanship, evocative music, integrated dance and the best costuming of any show this season to create 90 minutes of ever-growing horror. As the tension continued to build, like a kid, I came away feeling – “C’mon, scare me again!””– Josh Garrick, reporter from WinterPark/Maitland Observer

“I found this to be one of the most intentionally theatrical pieces I’ve seen since last year, and a great creep out that never resorts to the Halloween Horror Nights Zombie Blood Splatter Jump At You While Dinking A $7 Beer tropes. . . Yes, Halloween Horror Nights are here again and for those of us who prefer the intellectual side of fright, this is the show to freak with.” – Carl Gauze, Ink19

 

EDITED REVIEWS and QUOTES OF PHANTASMAGORIA III – Oct 2012

Photo by Kristen Wheeler“Phantasmagoria III” is the theatrical version of telling spooky stories around the dying embers of a campfire. . . That intimacy provided the most visceral fear for me during an athletic sword fight directed by Bill Warriner. The two sword-swinging performers — both of whom I have previously critiqued — let those blades whiz by just a shade closer than necessary. Oh, I jest — I think — but there were other moments that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. . . .There’s still life in these deathly tales – Matt Palm Orlando Sentinel

If you’ve seen director John DiDonna’s earlier installments of “Phantasmagoria,” you happily know what to expect – the mix of talented dancers, singers, comics and dramatic actors who establish a circus-like atmosphere as they recreate classic tales of terror. . . “Phantasmagoria III” has a stunning degree of visual flair, and not just from the almost rapid-fire interplay between the actors and the marionettes. The ceiling lights up with graphics that set the scene for us – the landscapes that the tales are set in — while other performers lurk stealthily behind the audience, startling us with an unexpected sound or movement. We’ve sailed into a magical world of fantasy that proves to be astonishingly gripping, exciting and humorous at times – and still has the ability at times to chill us. – Michael Freeman, Critic Freeline Media

Photo by Kristen Wheeler“. . .it’s a sell out as Orlando theater audiences seek out more and more sublime thrills. Perhaps the Chain Saw Room at Universal is much too much, this is a more discreet and refined atmosphere of creepiness. . . “ – Carl Gauze, Theatre Critic, Ink 19

““Phantasmagoria III” is a theatrical world of its own design, unique in theme and boundlessly creative as a manifestation of fantasy-horror in a bizarre assemblage.. . .These go beyond an average person’s preconceived understanding of puppetry. Several of them were brilliantly used to create moments of sheer terror. Of all puppets used during the production, the most frightening was saved for last.” – James Tutten, Jet Media

 

EDITED REVIEWS and QUOTES OF PHANTASMAGORIA IV – Oct 2013

Photo by Kristen WheelerIf you’ve missed previous year’s shows catch this one, it’s a collection of horror stories, dance and puppetry that flows around the audience and sometimes sits in their laps.. . .I’ll say this: Phantasmagoria is the most theatrical horror story night you’ll see, and you don’t have to stand in line for 45 minutes to see it. . .the highlight of the evening was the final dragon slaying mega battle. There’s some serious puppetry here, and it’s worth the ticket. – Carl Gauze, Ink 19

“The 4th installment of what has become an annual Halloween Celebration, this year titled Phantasmagoria IV – Hell Hath Risen, is the best version so far. With the best written script, the finest acting and inspired choreography, this homage to Poe, Dickens, and other literary masters is under the inspired direction of John DiDonna, Kevin Becker & Seth Kubersky; and choreography by Mila Makarova & Dion Smith.” – Josh Garrick, Wandering Educators

Photo by Kristen WheelerThis fantastical show that centers on the ancient art form of compelling narrative weaving has evolved over the years to become a uniquely diverse world unto its own. With this year’s addition of two special characters played by Bill Warriner and Jeremy Wood, stories are now shared with a deep purpose meant on discovering the truth behind this group’s twisted legacy. . . . Stories that are shared by featured storytellers and other cast members are brilliantly acted and continue the tradition of content depth seen in years past. . . More intriguing stories and dance numbers are shared as the production continues to its final conclusion. With brilliant dance choreography and special guest actors that act as a connection for the audience, this year’s show becomes a rich world that grows ever complex as the theatergoers peer deeper into the looking glass. – James Tutten, Jet Media

Phantasmagoria is an event I look forward to every Halloween season! The show is so rich in story telling, beautiful sets, gorgeous costuming and amazing performers. For those who may not have seen this show, don’t wait, see it this year. . . .I tend to get so absorbed into the show, it’s like being taken to another time and place. You Photo by Kristen Wheelerare surrounded by action and at times some of the characters will interact with you further bringing you into the story. The use of puppets is also beautiful and haunting. I feel like these creatures should be called something different than puppets because they are art.  – Denna Beena, The Daily City

“Those grinning skulls are the harbingers of the best of “Phantasmagoria IV,” which once it hits its stride soars like a bat out of you know where. . . .The cast recounts a particularly gruesome tale, “How the Children Played at Slaughtering” with gleeful relish. “Der Erlkonig,” a galloping ghost story that takes place during a frantic horse ride, mercilessly builds its suspense. A frolic through some of the most disturbing nursery rhymes pulsates with an unsettling intensity as the performers chant in rhythmic whispery phrases. . . Such moments give this creepfest its bite.” – Matt Palm, Orlando Sentinel