A haunting ‘Hellspawn II’
After the success of last year’s “Hellspawn,” Active Cultures Theater is going ghost-themed again on another trio of locally written and focused plays. This year’s offering is “Hellspawn II: Black Aggie Speaks.”
“It’s a really complex legend,” Active Cultures Artistic Director Mary Resing warns. There is a statue known as “Black Aggie,” a replica of the statue popularly called “Grief” that marks the Adams Memorial in Rock Creek Cemetery.
Black Aggie is haunted.
How haunted is haunted? “It supposedly killed people,” Resing said.
“It also became the site of hazing rituals for fraternities,” said Resing, and apparently some of these ill-fated pledges were strangled or choked by Black Aggie.
The cemetery, as you can imagine, wasn’t so hot on having this evil hunk of stone terrifying and possibly killing visitors. Officials tried passing it off to the Smithsonian, but the Smithsonian didn’t want it. (Maybe officials there were superstitious, or perhaps the Smithsonian just isn’t interested in bad copies of famous statues.) Black Aggie finally settled down in the courtyard of a federal district court building in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House.
“It’s supposedly wreaking havoc now on the federal court system,” said Resing, which, depending on your politics, kind of explains a lot.
Each of the three plays in “Hellspawn II” has a connection to the myth. “Faceless,” written by Resing, is a Gothic ghost story set inside the Hay-Adams hotel during a snowstorm. (“Grief,” that statue of which Black Aggie is a rip-off, sits atop the grave of Marian “Clover” Adams, the “Adams” in “Hay-Adams.”)
“Grief,” written by Michael John Garces, is a solo piece about the spirits trapped inside the titular statue in Rock Creek Cemetery. The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri wrote the third play, “What Fresh Hell,” a comedy about drunk fraternity boys and a hazing ritual held at Black Aggie.
Audience members who saw 2011’s “Hellspawn” can expect something a little more eerie. “Last year we were focusing on horror, and honestly that was really creepy to work on,” Resing said. “This year it’s more ghostly, it’s haunting. . . . We’re still trying to be spooky and scary, but in a different way.”
Thursday through Nov. 4, Riverdale Park Town Center, 4650 Queensbury Rd., Riverdale Park. activecultures.org. 301-526-9921.