You know, nothing says the holidays quite like disfigured, dead and traumatized children, all reaping the grim fruits of their terminal disobedience. At least so thought Dr. Heinrich Hoffman, a German psychiatrist and director of an insane asylum in Frankfurt. So in 1844 he devised Strewwelpeter, a little picture book of rhymes in which nine naughty children and one unlucky man come to various grisly ends—and then presented it as a Christmas present ... to his 3-year-old son.
(The unlikely subtitle for a book featuring four deaths and four maulings? Merry Tales and Funny Pictures for Children Aged 3 to 6.)
The book became a German and American phenomenon, as parents used it to show subsequent generations of impressionable young children what really happens to kids who suck their thumbs, don't eat their soup and don't watch where they're walking. Shockheaded Peter, a mordant English musical adaptation (featuring a soundtrack by the Tiger Lillies), proved an international sensation in the late 1990s and mid-2000s.
Raleigh Ensemble Players is calling this theatrical haunted house exploration "its most intimate and unique experience to date." It also advises that this show is only for ages 12 and up, and asks that patrons requiring special accommodations contact the theater at 919-832-9607. Glen Mathews directs a cast of 17 in a production that runs, appropriately enough, through Halloween night. —Byron Woods