Theatre review: Debts is fifty shades of freaky

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Something wicked this way returns as Debts gets its fifty shades of freaky on once again this Halloween season.

ITSAZOO Productions presents Mack Gordon's Debts at the Roedde House in Vancouver's West EndWith the historic Roedde House Museum in Vancouver’s West End as its stage, audiences are invited inside its claustrophobic rooms as Mack Gordon’s supernatural story plays out around us.

Joining a group of five teens who have decided to crash the wedding at what’s been dubbed “Satan’s House”, we follow the group as they meet the house’s inhabitants.  While the quintet picks petty fights with each other or look for redemption in their relationships, they realize too late that they have become fodder for the otherworldly residents, and maybe even the house itself.

The cast here is uniformly terrific although it is Kaitlin Williams as one of the teens who, simply with her eyes, manages to convey the terror around us and Brett Harris goes to the edge of camp in his role as the radio announcer that surprisingly conjured images of Linda Hunt.

There is no breaking down the fourth wall here because there are no walls between audience and cast.  While we are primarily observers thrown together inside the museum’s tiny spaces, playwright Gordon still manages to cleverly acknowledge our existence.

Drawing inspiration from contemporary classics like Poltergeist, Rosemary’s Baby and even The Exorcist, Gordon manages to cohesively meld it all together with the aesthetic of Edgar Allan Poe and a teen slasher movie.  While Gordon eschews blatant scares for a tension that ebbs and flows as we move through the house, those looking for the fright factor won’t be entirely disappointed.

Surprisingly Debts almost missed making it to the rooms of Roedde House at all, but thanks to the team at ITSAZOO who never wavered on playwright Mack Gordon’s vision and the Vancouver Foundation who sparked the funding necessary to make it happen, it is back for a second year.  With its sold-out run in 2011 you better book now.

4 Out of 5 StarsDebts

Written and directed by Mack Gordon.  An ITSAZOO Productions presentation.  At the Roedde House Museum through November 3, 2012.  Visit for tickets and information.

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