By Ed Kliszus
The rich baritone voice of raconteur Frank Zilinyi launched Radiotheatre’s deliciously macabre exordium of The Haunting of 85 East 4th Street, a dark, spellbinding tale of New York City history, horror, mysterious sounds, ghosts, curses, cannibals, occult, exorcisms, diablerie, and doom. Zilinyi and his partner Zero Boy were our able cicerones, guiding us through a hypnotizing tale of gripping suspense and almost unspeakable dread.
The story begins on the plot of land home to today’s Kraine Theater. In the 18th century, condemned prisoners were taken from a barge on the Hudson River at the end of Christopher Street and brought to the hanging tree in the northwest corner of Washington Square Park. This English elm tree still stands and is one of the oldest trees in New York City. There these doomed denizens were executed to the regular morbid amusement of viewers. The hangman lived in a shack at 85 East 4th Street and exercised his craft for 40 years, never missing a day. While in a forced retirement, self-imposed isolation, and amidst reports of late-night doleful howling on the property, the murderous martinet was found hanged under peculiar circumstances and was perhaps propelled to his demise by supernatural forces described in ancient Hermetic texts.
The histrionic accounts are gripping, and one cannot divert attention despite a frequent horripilation of dread. One wonders if the recounts of ghosts, haunting, murders, and spirits are apocryphal or factual as reported in ubiquitous news headlines of the day. Throughout the evening, projected photos and newspaper clippings appeared detailing the onslaught of events tracking history to current times.
This show honored the finest traditions of radio theater memorialized by giants like Orson Welles with the Mercury Theater or Lamont Cranston with The Shadow on the Detective Story Hour. Spooky and creepy, akin to the darkest Halloween tales, listeners were captivated and sitting on the edges of their seats as the 200-year history of the very address in which we were seated unfolded. Effects of lighting, sound, and fog intensely enhanced the chronicle as superbly crafted music, voices, and sound effects enriched the cinematic tensions of the narrators’ exquisite eloquence, finish, and virtuosity.
The art of radio theater is better than ever at this performance of Radiotheatre at the Kraine Theater. Move quickly, as this is a limited run.
Radiotheatre’s The Haunting of 85 East 4th Street
Starring Frank Zilinyi and Zero Boy
Technical Director Wes Shippee
Founder and Director Dan Bianchi
The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
Upcoming performances are on November 17 at 7 pm, Friday, November 18 at 7 pm, Saturday, November 19 at 7 pm, and Sunday, November 20 at 3 pm.
Tickets ($30) are available for advance purchase at www.frigid.nyc.
Runtime approximately 75 minutes, with no intermission.
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Hedda Gabler, Body Through Which the Dream Flows, In the Trenches, and Fastened to the Moon.