Lovecraft's Monsters, a one-man show written and performed by David Crawford, is a trip through the life of H.P. Lovecraft, the early 20th-century writer of cosmic horror popular among people who find Poe kind of dorky. You can't really overstate Lovecraft's influence on horror, from Stephen King to Hellraiser.
I'm a bit disappointed that 12 Peers Theater decided to stage this show in March rather than the Halloween season it seems to court — none of my friends were excited to see a spooky show over St. Patrick's Day weekend, when the scariest story is usually the designated driver canceling.
The show is by turns haunting and disarmingly funny. Crawford expertly sheds his own voice's delightfully monstrous husk to take on the manner of a child while monologuing through Lovecraft's own boyhood, walking us through the major points of his life until he becomes the hermetic starving racist who birthed modern horror.
Were I to return the script to Mr. Crawford with my best high school teacher red marks, I would question the handling of this latter part of his life: The show's second half is given over largely to a live retelling of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," one of Lovecraft's best stories, with narratively superficial pauses to remind us that, for many of his most creative years, Lovecraft was starving and lonely.
The Maker Theater (which daylights as Steel City Improv Theater) is a good venue for the show, intimate and faceted, like a little cavern. The setting provides, perhaps, a microcosm of the horror experience: Multiple times, I jumped at sounds coming from behind us, which might have been water running or a floorboard settling, but which had me squeezing the arm of the friend beside me for security.
Horror is a deeply personal sensation, dependent on our youths, our individual neuroses and obsessions, even things as frivolous as how much caffeine we've had in the past 12 hours. For some of us, the idea of growing into sickly, reclusive xenophobes produces gut-clenching fear; for others it only reminds us of Grandma. Me, I found Lovecraft's Monsters a lot of fun.