Fringe Review: ‘Children in the Mist, A Horror Opera’

“Children in the Mist.”

Children in the Mist, A Horror Opera, presented by the innovativi Riverbend Opera Company as part of the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival, is a puzzling mix: a contemporary opera that draws its plotline and mood from Stephen King’s short story, “The Mist.”

The opera opens with David Drayton (played by composer/librettist Sean Pflueger), his wife Stephanie (played by Sarah Powell), and their young son Billy (Henry Buckholtz) singing about a strange mist coming up over the sea toward their small Maine town.  At first, they find the mist beautiful, but they become puzzled that a mist can move so quickly, approaching closer and closer to land.  David and Billy leave Stephanie behind to run an errand to the town’s grocery store.  They greet the townspeople and are friendly to all.

The opera then quickly aligns itself to the King story.  As the mist reaches the town, many other people find themselves trapped in the store.  They discover there is something evil hiding in the mist: an evil that kills anything that tries to walk through it.

Pfleuger’s bass-baritone voice and that of mezzo Castrello are strong, beautiful and well worth the price of admission.

Eventually, the store patrons splinter into rival factions.  One, led by insane Mrs. Carmody (Castrello), believes they must repent their sins to God before the mist – the wrath of God – descends upon them.  Another, led by David, wants to fight against the mist and survive.  The two factions turn on each other, and a survival–of-the-fittest mentality overtakes the friendly neighborhood grocery store.

Children is something of a genre-bender, in that the dominant emotion in this opera is not love or hate but fear.  Fans of operatic singing can revel in the fine, contemporary musical score, which at times evokes the creepiness of King’s writing. Pfleuger’s bass-baritone voice and that of mezzo Castrello are strong, beautiful and well worth the price of admission.

Others may come away less satisfied by the production.  Children is firmly grounded in the conventions of opera, including melodrama that risks becoming comedic.  Those risks are heightened in this shortened version of the opera, staged specially for the Fringe.  There are occasional continuity issues.  The orchestra consists of only a piano and flute (beautifully played by Kayme Henkel and Bryan Lee/Gwyn Jones, respectively).  The set is sparse, the costumes are used L.L. Bean, and the special effects range from frustrating (no mist) to comical (a severed corpse with red duct tape for blood).

If you get scared, just cover your eyes.  Your ears will thank you.

Children in the Mist is playing at the Hispanic Gala Theatre in Washington D.C.

Advisory: Recommended for kids 13 and up.  Contains profanity.

Running Time:  90 minutes, with no intermission.

Performances have ended for Children in the Mist.

For more information about the Capital Fringe Festival click here.