Something magical happened over the weekend, and I’m still not sure how to explain it. Through some sheer stroke of luck, I wound up in the 19th century, walking the grounds of the Heritage Square Museum, while a scholar of all things undead conjured the sights and sounds of an old-school phantasmagoria production. It was frightening, it was engrossing, and it truly was something special.

HERE THE BIRDS BURN is a unique type of production. It not only makes the mind wander but also harkens back to the past, when things were much simpler and the modern conveniences of today were not around to distract us. The show invites guests to partake in an old pastime, in which showmen would lift the veil between the living and the dead.

These days, we have things like Universal Halloween Horror Nights and Knott’s Scary Farm, each with their own modern technological advances built in to scare us. But strip all of that away, and what do you have left? This show gives us a taste of what 18th and 19th century haunted houses were like.

The show opens in a parlor of one of the lovely homes on the property, with the guests meeting four others from the time period, all there to see the sights and sounds of the underworld. There is the socialite who has attended many of these in the past, the man of science who is not really open to the possibility of it being real, the reporter who is looking for a good story, and the man who lost everything but wants to speak to his dead father again.

The opening scene sets the one of the show quite nicely, as we get a chance to get to know these characters pretty seamlessly. While the revival portion of the show would have been enough, these story points give us a little more to connect with, giving a bit of personal stakes to the proceedings.

Over the next hour or so, we moved to different locations around Heritage Square, each one more beautiful than the last, to experience different aspects of the past; from the ghostly lecture and puppet show from a French aristocrat, to learning about the magic lanterns of the olden days, to even partaking in a conjuring ourselves that was a spectacle to behold.

HERE THE BIRDS BURN used technology of the past to create a wonderful show for the present day. The ancient techniques on display, with the painted glass slides projected onto screens, the morality puppet show, and even the sound effects, created a package that truly felt like we had traveled to the past. I can’t stress enough how cool this was, them actually using authentic machines from the olden days, to make this show work AND have it be so effective.

The actors themselves were all quite good, embodying their roles and the speech patterns and dialects of the past to really throw us more into the story. I expected a spooky show, but also found one that was quite funny as well. The characters sometimes snipped at each other, making for some light-hearted fun, and the ghostly French apparition had me chuckling AND feeling fear more times than I can count. It was a strong cast all around and as someone who often sees a rotating array of the same faces during these shows, it was nice to see all new ones taking center stage.

Heritage Square, with its Victorian era homes, really helped sell the ideal that we were in the 1830s, and its picturesque setting was the perfect background for the show. The benefit of being around things from back then really sold the idea even further, and the show did an excellent job of never breaking that immersion.
I knew of writer/director Stephanie Delazeri’s art work in the past from previous immersive shows, but was truly impressed by her work here. She wrote a wonderful little story, filled with moments that both thrilled and chilled the audience, while paying homage to the stories of the past. I really, really enjoyed it.

Like I mentioned earlier, HERE THE BIRDS BURN is something really special. It is unlike anything we have seen before in immersive theater in LA because it looks to the past to make a better show for the present. I would love to see more like this, especially from Delazeri, as she seems to have a knack for it.

There are two more weekends to catch it, February 13-16 and 20-23, and I highly recommend you do so, especially if you want a taste of what scares were like in the past.

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