We gave it a B-
A takeoff on medieval pageant plays centering on a haunted house of sin designed as a Christian cautionary tale, the ”Hell House” has been on the scene nationally for close to 20 years, but there has never been one staged in New York City until now. St. Ann’s Warehouse — a 14,000-square-foot space in Brooklyn’s très boho DUMBO neighborhood, is playing host to the first, courtesy of the resourceful troupe Les Freres Corbusier (A Very Merry Unauthorized Scientology Pageant). In the course of a 45-minute tour, audience members join small groups to witness the grisly aftermath of a young girl’s suicide after taking drugs at a rave, an abortion that goes seriously awry, a gay couple torn apart by the ravages of AIDS, a classroom shooting, a young couple contemplating casual sex, and even a Terri Schiavo-like character who becomes one of the Lord’s chosen.
Surprisingly, there’s no patronizing toward the beliefs of the Christians who often stage such events. While there are outrageous moments (a vacuum cleaner is involved in the gruesome abortion scene), it’s actually less histrionic than actual Hell Houses. But that’s also this production’s problem: For a staging that relies so heavily on such controversial societal issues, there’s a noticeable lack of theatrical flair, and it moves so briskly that there’s barely time to absorb all the subversive elements. By the time the doughnut-and-punch-fueled hoedown finale arrives, you’ll wish this haunted house left you a little more haunted. (Tickets: Ticketweb.com or 718-254-8779)