On the Record With Matt Gray
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Oct 16, 2008 | 27508 views | 0 0 comments | 2323 2323 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a political, social, and financial climate that takes sharp turns, is a source of endless terror, and seems never-ending, Brooklyn theatergoers might be in the mood for something pleasant. Writers Matt Gray and Brian Enk feel otherwise, offering up their homage to the Victorian Era’s most horrifying serial literature, the penny dreadfuls.

The writers, who also produce the show, have created a monthly play series that brings together vampires, magicians, detectives, and a global conspiracy featuring historical notables all against the backdrop of the first decade of the twentieth century.

Though penny dreadfuls were more popular in the late 19th century, Gray and Enk felt that the years following the turn of the century were less commonly used in modern works, and the 100-year distance from today creates several parallels between the stories and current events.

“We thought the 1900’s would be an interesting time period to set the story in because it has a lot in common with what’s going on today,” said Gray.

Penny Dreadful is beginning its second season of episodes, after a successful first season that saw a detective investigating a vampire-related death stumble upon a dark alliance of powerful historical figures including Thomas Edison, Harry Houdini, and JP Morgan. Gray describes the tone of the play as “over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek violence, mystery and horror with a great deal of comedy.”

Gray and Enk, who also produce Penny Dreadfuls and directed the season-opening episode, have a general outline of the story but have been writing each episode a month in advance of the performances, in much the same way that Victorian serial writers would create as they go. Their ongoing creative process allows them to gauge the audiences’ response and fine-tune their story as they go along. But they definitely have an end point, although they won’t say what it is.

“The second season ends in March, but we won’t say if it is the end,” said Gray. “We want to keep our audience on edge about where the story will end.”

Though the first season of Penny Dreadful has come and gone, the creators have helpfully posted recordings of the first six performances, as well as brief synopses of each episode, on their website, www.thirdlows.com/pennydreadful/, to ease new theatergoers into their ongoing story.

The second season of Penny Dreadful begins at 11 p.m. Saturday night at Williamsburg’s Brick Theater, with an encore performance Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets, visit their website or visit the Brick Theater at 575 Metropolitan Avenue.

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