Halloween 2023: Theatrical tricks and treats haunt Bay Area stages

Even though the Castro’s famously massive street parties are sadly a thing of the past, Halloween is still a big deal in San Francisco.

Throughout the month of October, there is usually no shortage of spine-chilling shows to brave for local theatergoers, ranging from elaborate haunted-house experiences to classic thrillers and cult-classic camp.

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s in this year’s theatrical trick-or-treat bag.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”: This musical comedy horror film has remained a midnight-movie cult classic since its 1975 release, with live “shadow casts” mimicking the onscreen action and a practiced accompanying ritual of shouted audience responses. The film will be screened at Mountain View’s Pear Theatre and Harmony Werks, complete with a shadow cast and the works (or werks). Details: Oct. 20-21 at the Pear Theatre in Mountain View; $25; www.thepear.org.

“Lizard Women”: Awesome Theatre returns with Eteya Trinidad’s new horror comedy about the complicated love lives of two bloodthirsty were-lizards and their unsuspecting new roommate, now housed in SF’s Phoenix Theatre following the demise of the PianoFight venue. Details: Phoenix Theatre, San Francisco, through Oct. 14; $25-$30; www.awesometheatre.org.

“The Turn of the Screw”: In playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s chilling adaptation, two actors play Henry James’ Gothic horror novella thriller about a new governess who believes ghosts are haunting the young orphans she’s been hired to care for on an isolated country estate. Details: Town Hall Theatre, Lafayette; $20-$45; www.townhalltheatre.com.

“Unhinged: Housewarming”: Each year, the immersive Halloween walk-through experience “Unhinged” at the Winchester Mystery House offers a new chapter of its horror show. This time, we return to the Roaring ’20s with “Housewarming,” in which a prominent Hollywood couple moves into the notoriously bizarre mansion after Sarah Winchester’s death and throws a housewarming party that quickly turns macabre. Winchester Mystery House, San Jose; $65-$100; www.winchesterunhinged.com; on display through Oct. 31.

“The Initiation”: Into the Dark returns to the San Francisco Mint with a brand-new immersive haunted-house experience. This one invites guests to an initiation ceremony for a cult dedicated to raising members’ awareness of the horrors lurking all around us. Attendees must be at least 18 years old. In the vault, there’s also a ’80s New Wave vampire bar open to both patrons and the general public. Details: Through Oct. 31 at the San Francisco Mint; $55-$85; www.terrorvault.com.

“The Rocky Horror Show”: Ray of Light’s productions of the original stage musical that inspired the cult classic film have become a San Francisco tradition in their own right, especially now that the company has teamed up with drag cabaret nightclub Oasis for a fully immersive production that will take place throughout the club. D’Arcy Drollinger reprises her role as Dr. Frank N. Furter. Details: Oasis, San Francisco; $45-$100; www.rayoflighttheatre.com.

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”: John Minigan’s stage adaptation of Washington Irving’s spooky tale of hapless Ichabod Crane’s encounter with the Headless Horsemen thunders to life in Santa Rosa, with one performer possessed by all 20 characters. 6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa, Oct. 13-Nov. 5; $34-$45; www.6thstreetplayhouse.com

“Tales from Behind the Basement Door”: Berkeley’s Theatre Lunatico is also presenting a version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” adapted and directed by Gendell Hing-Hernández. This is part of a double bill with “A Rose for Emily,” a stage adaptation of William Faulkner’s short story about an eccentric recluse’s disturbing behavior after her father’s death. Details: October 21-November 5, La Val’s Subterranean Theater, Berkeley; pay what you want (suggested $15-$50); www.theatrelunatico.org.

“Bloody Jack”: San Leandro Players conjures the terror of Jack the Ripper in playwright Tim Kelly’s dramatic whodunit, which invites you to guess which of the play’s characters is the mysterious Whitechapel murderer. Details: October 21-November 19, San Leandro Museum Auditorium; $15-$20; www.slplayers.org.

“All Hallows’ Eve at the Palace”: Join characters from the long-running immersive Prohibition theatrical experience “The Speakeasy” for a Roaring ’20s-themed Halloween bash complete with ghost stories, vaudeville acts, live jazz, seances, tarot readings, cocktails, and casino tables.

Details: October 26-28 at the Palace Theatre in San Francisco; $85-$155 (subject to change); www.thespeakeasysf.com.

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