Life of Death (2013)

Adaptation by Charley Sherman
Based on the novel by Clive Barker
Directed by Carolyn Klein

It’s Christmas time in London, but mortality, not merriment, is on everyone’s minds. A serial killer is terrorizing the British capital leaving a trail of victims in his wake. Elaine, however, has been dealing with life and death matters on a more personal scale. While going through the healing process from a life-saving hysterectomy, she becomes fascinated with death.

Her morbid obsession leads her to an old church being demolished and a mysterious man who shares her dark curiosity. While dealing with her lost ability to give life and her recent brush with death, she stumbles upon a terrible secret buried beneath the stones of the ruined church. Clive Barker’s The Life of Death is a journey of transformation and restoration from beyond the grave.


Brian Amidei (Dr. Sennett)
Christy Arington (Waitress)
Casey Cunningham (Elaine Rider)
Bryson Engelen (Alex Chimes)
Steve Herson (Kavanagh)
Jesse Manson (Salvation Army Officer)
Kevin Mullaney (Clergyman)
Mallory Nees (Bernice)
Michaela Petro (Hermione)
Adam Soule (Mitchell Barnes)
Ele Matelan (u/s Bernice/Hermione/Waitress)
Dave Skvarla (u/s Alex Chimes/Clergyman/Dr. Sennett)

Production Team:

Rene Amador (Assistant Stage Manager)
Aly Renee Amidei (Costume Design/Props/Production Manager)
Ira Amyx (Media Design)
Eva Breneman (Dialect Coach)
Walter Grigs (Technical Director)
Kyle Hamman (Media Design Consultant)
Christopher Kriz, U.S.A. (Sound Design)
Mary Rose O’Connor (Stage Manager)
Dave Skvarla (Violence Consultant)
Karen Tarjan (Movement Design)
Brandon Wardell (Lighting Design)
John Wilson (Scenic Design)

Film Crew:

Clara Alcott (Producer)
Ira Amyx (Producer)
Patrick McGee (Producer)
Clara Alcott (Director)
Peter Wiese (Director of Photography)
Patrick McGee (Production Design)
Sean Waldron (Gaffer)


“Casey Cunningham captivates in a tense, dread-filled adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story … The Life of Death deserves the dread and sweat of a serious audience … The terror builds subtly but steadily through director Carolyn Klein’s inspired arrangements of a nimble cast … Cunningham’s performance is extraordinary; she commands attention even when curled up in the fetal position. In Elaine, she’s created an eloquent fighter-philosopher whose woes become world-altering catastrophe. … Steve Herson (as Kavanagh), Michaela Petro (as Elaine’s complex friend Hermione) and Mallory Nees (as a featherbrained secretary) enrich and enliven each moment onstage. … The Life of Death deserves the dread and sweat of a serious audience.” Time Out – Emily Gordon

“Those reveling in pre-Halloween energy will find much to enjoy with WildClaw Theatre’s darkly beautiful adaptation of The Life of Death … hauntingly directed by Carolyn Klein and features a deeply incisive performance by Casey Cunningham … stellar example of gooey bloodshed mixing with stellar poeticism … (a) perfect, ghoulish theatrical experience for this very haunted season.” Sheridan Road Magazine – Brian Kirst

“Set designer John Wilson and make-up artist Aly Renee Amidei steal the show.. their talents impress throughout the play. … The cast… performs well; there’s palpable camaraderie between them. … Steve Herson’s silky, yet slimy Kavanaugh recalls Ian McKellan a la The Davinci Code. Michaela Petro plays a complicated and bewitching Hermione. Mallory Nees charms in her small, comic role as Bernice. … Act II unfolds quickly and with a number of interesting surprises and twists that terrify on a psychological level if not a visceral one.” CenterStage Chicago – Kristen Walters

“This WildClaw Theatre production compensates for the script’s flaws with an impressively evocative, eerie sound design by Christopher Kriz and inventive video segments by Ira Amyx. … Under Carolyn Klein’s direction, WildClaw stalwart Steve Herson brings texture to the role of the tall, deep-voiced fellow who may or may not be the grim reaper.” Chicago Reader – Albert Williams

Recommended: 3 1⁄2 (out of 4 stars) … “A mind-bending ride of sensory delight and heart-pounding horror … WildClaw’s ensemble of ten actors each give solid performances … Elaborate visual effects make this production pop, from John B. Wilson’s gorgeous set design and incredible realization of the crypt (in conjunction with Brandon Wardell’s innovative lighting effects) to the use of film on a large screen for both news reports and Elaine’s haunted nightmares. Christopher Kriz’s subtly chilling score adds to the atmosphere, and Carolyn Klein’s creative orchestration of it all maximizes these high production values. The juxtaposition of pleasing aesthetics and some very gruesome and disturbing images makes for an enjoyable evening.” Chicago Theater Beat – Keith Glab

“Adaptor Charley Sherman and director Carolyn Klein do a tremendous job of keeping the narrative misdirection popping. … This play is an immersive feat of black magic, thanks largely to the perfect marriage of sound (Christopher Kriz), lighting (Brandon Wardell), and scenery (John Wilson). The creators are in full command of where and how the audience focuses its attention–particularly in the crypt sequence, which caught me completely off guard in a genuine, jaw-dropping moment of terror. … I didn’t think it possible for a live performance to perfectly recreate the editing techniques and camera movements of a great horror movie, but these folks have done so in spades. … The special effects and staging would be impressive even without a terrific cast; luckily, The Life of Death is a complete entertainment package. Cunningham and Herson make a captivating duo, a sort of gender-reversed Harold and Maude who both harbor damage and dark secrets. The supporting cast are authentically annoying, precisely in the way they were designed to be.” Kicking the Seat – Ian Simmons