We should have learned by now that nothing good happens when you enter an abandoned house.
But instead of watching characters enter a house you know they shouldn't from the comfort of your own couch, the horror plays out right in front of you in Joel Patrick Durham and Natalie Heikkinen's second season of their binge-worthy horror show, Nesting: Vacancy. Thankfully, they give you a big blanket to use.
Trust us—you'll need it both nights. Nesting is told in four episodes over either one or two nights, depending on when you go: It's theater you can binge-watch like Scandal. Nesting debuted to a cult following at now-closed Action/Adventure Theater in 2015, before getting picked up by Theatre Vertigo last year. This year's Nesting: Vacancy brings back old and new cast members with a new storyline.
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The play begins with a distressed Cameron (Jacob Camp) entering a dark and spooky house, constructed by wooden planks that eerily resemble a corn maze. He's panting, his eyes are wide and he's literally afraid of his own shadow. Right behind him is Sylvia (Isabella Buckner), his lovable slacker older sister. A vague backstory leads us to believe that their parents sucked so they had to run away to an abandoned house in Portland. Everything seems dismal, but okay: The siblings move in, get to know their #basic neighbors and get drunk with their accomplished childhood friend Ryan (Tyharra Cozier), who is by far the most stable character in the play.
But then shit starts to get weird.
In a dizzying and gradual degrade into madness, the siblings start seeing a light behind a locked basement door in the middle of the night. Then they start to hear voices. Then they start to see a terrifying Valley of the Dolls, Stepford Wives being (Elizabeth Jackson) who's so close to your seat in the tiny Shoebox Theater, she can stare straight into your eyes.
Unfortunately, because of the heavy psychological themes, the play can easily turn maudlin, like when Cameron beats himself up, hurling himself against the walls, which loses a carefully crafted tension.
What makes Nesting: Vacancy work is the pairing of psychological horror often seen onstage paired with cinema-style horror, like strobe lights, an eerie score and echoed voices. The result is what feels like part-haunted house, part-really twisted episode of Twilight Zone—except that you can't turn it off. You wouldn't want to even if you could.
Nesting: Vacancy is at The Shoebox Theater, 2110 SE 10th Ave. See nestingpdx.com.