Dinner disappointment salvaged by mediocre show

‘Haunting of Hill House’ play adaptation saves the evening spoiled by the dinner portion of the deal


Ali Smith/ The Gannon Knight

The 96th production for All An Act Productions was the play adaptation of 1959 novel“Haunting of Hill House.”

Ali Smith, Arts & Leisure Editor

When I received an email about the opportunity to review a show with a dining discount, the broke college student in me jumped at the opportunity. 

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I made a date of this package-deal opportunity, making reservations for the seemingly fancy 18th Street restaurant La Bella before attending the All An Act Productions display of “Haunting of Hill House,” which was adapted for the stage by F. Andrew Leslie.  

As someone who has been quite pleased with trying new foods and exploring Erie’s hidden gems, I was quite disappointed to say the least by my dining experience at La Bella, especially in promoted partnership with the show I was about to see.  

I did read some Yelp reviews before I decided on a 5 p.m. reservation, and the plates looked incredibly fancy, but the menu was not too pricy, which was also appealing to me. I was expecting my experience to be similar to those at Mi Scuzi, a local Italian restaurant special enough only for my birthday and rated even lower than La Bella; so my hopes were high.  

We arrived 10 minutes early, and the doors were locked, as the restaurant didn’t open until 5 p.m. When we were finally allowed in at 5:01, we were met with a shock. The environment was dark and dingy and the restaurant walls were emitting an out-of-place rock playlist.  

You could definitely tell that this used to be a 1900s dive bar.  

We were aware that the restaurant was BYOB — bring your own booze — but I was expecting more than water to be offered. I asked about other options and was told that I could have Sprite or Coke in a can, further cheapening the night.  

The food was fine, aside from the fact that I saw them preparing my salad unashamedly with their hands and handling my bread without gloves on the bare bar. 

Moving on to the show, which was just one block away, I arrived at a hidden theater community that shared a building with a housing center.  

We arrived half an hour early, and although our wait was dull, I was pleased to see that our seats had been reserved for us. I thought that was an endearing touch.  

This particular show was directed by J.D. Mizikowski. 

Although the theater itself was small, putting my high school auditorium to shame, the quality of the play was above my standards, especially following my meal experience.  

I have seen the show “Haunting of Hill House” on Netflix, and although I knew the play adaptation of the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel was definitely going to be more true to its era, I was pleasantly surprised with the dark, Victorian mansion depicted on the stage.  

The program prefaced the show with “Dr. John Montague rents Hill House, a brooding, mid-Victorian mansion known as a place of evil and ‘contained ill will,’ hoping to cause a sensation in the field of parapsychology. Montague, who is conducting research in supernatural phenomena, invites ‘psychically receptive’ visitors to help probe the secrets of the old house and to draw forth the mysterious powers that it is alleged to possess.” 

As soon as the play began, I realized it was going to be very different from the show, and aside from a couple of names, I couldn’t really see any similarity.  

That is not to say I didn’t enjoy it, though.  

The acting was great from the jump, especially considering that three of the seven performers were first-timers at All An Act, or A3 as they call it.  

I was especially impressed by Robin Rastatter, who revived my hope for the night with her enticing role as Theodora, or “Theo.” 

Rastatter was beautifully dressed in an array of dress pants and fun but conservative blouses, which also allowed for peaks at her colorful tattoo, which I thought was very progressive for a community that seems to be very strict about appearances, and I appreciated this as a tattoo lover myself.  

Tori Snyder, in the role of Eleanor Vance, played far too much into the innocence factor of the character, to the point that it was cringeworthy. 

Of the male actors, Chad Santos was perfectly typecast as Dr. John Montague, whose booming voice filled the theater.  

What I didn’t appreciate, however, was the overly loud screaming and the span of the play itself.  

To begin, as someone who appreciates the dramatism of theatrics just as much as the next, this was a bit over the top for me.  

I am unsure if this is just due to this being my first live show since the start of the pandemic, so that I’m not used to it, but even on Broadway I didn’t remember shouting episodes to be that piercing.  

As the play began at 7:30 sharp, I wasn’t expecting it to be tremendously long, as it would then run into late night. However, this is exactly what happened, as the first act war painfully long, lasting an hour and a half.  

I was really enjoying the show, but not enough to stay until 11 p.m. to see how it ended. And that is just me being honest.


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