The Scariest

I NEED A NEW DRUG Siegfried plays a sinister apothecary.

I NEED A NEW DRUG Siegfried plays a sinister apothecary. Photograph: Morrigan McCarthy

Evil spirits no longer have a monopoly on terror, so The Scariest—an eerie collection of plays and monologues presented by the Exchange—focuses on chills evoked by people as well as supernatural agents. Playwrights spin modern versions of stories that may be billed as horror, but fall nearer to Twilight Zone suspense. Throw in four monologues by various authors, solidly narrated by the same actor (Joaquin Torres), and the result is generally auspicious but overlong and occasionally repetitive.

Did Mark Schultz have to adapt W.W. Jacobs’s three-wish fable “The Monkey’s Paw” twice? He should have stopped after his first effort, an amusing look at a young man (Jesse Hooker) who courts disaster to impress his girlfriend with the titular talisman. Laura Schellhardt cleverly twists Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” turning the main character (Mandy Siegfried) into a lovelorn gal who takes drastic steps to keep the object of her unrequited affection (Andy Grotelueschen) from finding a wife. Gary Sunshine examines the lengths of parental sacrifice in his take on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Story of a Mother,” about a mom (Rebecca Brooksher) battling a fiend (Angel Desai)—the evening’s most macabre offering.

However, the bizarro award goes to Kristin Newborn’s riff on the Book of Revelation (isn’t the Bible the ultimate horror story?). Newborn produces a sly body-snatching tale with the writer “bodcasting” herself into actors. Bolstered by a potent cast and deft visuals, this production conjures the best spirits when it touches the dark side with a light hand.

—Diane Snyder

The Green Room. By various authors. Dirs. Ari Edelson and Meredith McDonough. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.