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Review: “It’s Alive!” immersive play thrills at Mount View Mausoleum

by Jeff DePaoli

Just in time for the Halloween season, a work titled “It’s Alive!,” inspired by Mary Shelley’s masterpiece “Frankenstein,” has arrived at a real mausoleum in Altadena, California. This immersive play, co-written by Devon Armstrong and John Armstrong, does a nice job using the world of “Frankenstein” to set the mood for this immersive experience. While names and settings may seem familiar, this is an experience unlike one you’ve had before.

It's Alive immersive play at Mount View Mausoleum

The thing that truly makes this production stand out is its location-based setting. Although this production was previously performed at the Heritage Square Museum in Los Angeles, I believe that its new home at the Mount View Mausoleum is the perfect fit, being familiar with both locations. I’ve seen past theatre productions in this mausoleum as well, so I was curious to see how effectively and differently it would be used for “It’s Alive!” Although “It’s Alive!” might have had a smaller budget than shows I’ve seen in the past here, this production made the best use of the space and created a much more unique experience.

"It's Alive!" Downtown Repertory Theater Immersive Play at Mount View Mausoleum

I use the word unique in its truest sense. Every guest visiting “It’s Alive!” will get a different show and experience. I attended with a friend, but beyond the first scene where the whole group of approximately thirty audience members were together, we were quickly split up into smaller groups. Just when I thought I had been broken up into my pack of three for the night, I would then be taken away alone by one of the cast members. From group scenes to one-on-one interactions, they’re all a delight in “It’s Alive!” But it does make you wonder what else you’re missing, and the experiences other audience members are having. It makes for a fun night of comparing notes with other audience members after the show.

The Mount View Mausoleum is a cavernous resting place. It’s very easy to get lost in the different hallways and outdoor settings during daylight, let alone once the sun has set. Thankfully, the cast was well trained in how to get us from one location to the next while continuing to unravel the story during our candlelit strolls. Characters would acknowledge others as they passed in the hallways, while the audience members would wonder where we were headed next and where the audience member we just passed was going.

Although the word “immersive” can be a bit overused these days, “It’s Alive!” does a nice job fulfilling this promise. Aside from the grand building being immersive, I was also asked to perform some small tasks in order to propel the story. One such task was delivering a character’s teeth to another, which I had just witnessed him pull out one by one.

Scene from "It's Alive!" immersive play at Mount View Mausoleum

The cast as a whole must be applauded as not only were the performances all well delivered, but they also did an exceptional job in guiding the audience members throughout the night. The logistics of this location and this style of storytelling could be overwhelming. But this cast pulled it off like a well-oiled machine in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. One cast member that I would like to particularly mention is Robert Schaefer who plays Victor Frankenstein. This young performer had a great talent for making you feel like the most important person in the story when speaking to you. I especially appreciated the intentional way he used his voice. His performance was often subtle yet begged for you to listen.

Robert Schaefer as Victor Frankenstein "It's Alive!" immersive play
Robert Schaefer as Victor Frankenstein

One thing you should know before attending is that although the story is inspired by a classic monster, this is not a scary experience per se. Although you’re surrounded by death and extremely dim lighting, this production is more of an emotional one rather than scary. Although I personally recommend the production, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you went in thinking you were getting a traditional Halloween haunt experience.

To learn more about “It’s Alive!” and for tickets to remaining performances, visit www.DowntownRep.com.



Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the host and producer of “That Halloween Podcast” featuring exclusive interviews with talents from within the horror and haunt industry at www.DePodcastNetwork.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.

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