Trick or Treat?: Jeffrey M. Jones’ “Seventy Scenes of Halloween” at Manbites Dog Has a Little of Both

Manbites Dog Theater of Durham, NC is celebrating its 25th birthday by restaging "Seventy Scenes of Halloween" by Jeffrey M. Jones on Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and Dec. 6-9, 12-13, and 15 (photo by Jon Haas)
Manbites Dog Theater of Durham, NC is celebrating its 25th birthday by restaging “Seventy Scenes of Halloween” by Jeffrey M. Jones on Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and Dec. 6-9, 12-13, and 15 (photo by Jon Haas)

Trick or treat? Manbites Dog Theater’s inaugural production, Seventy Scenes of Halloween by Jeffrey M. Jones has a little of both. First staged in December of 1987 and repeated on Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and Dec. 6-9, 12-13, and 15, 2012, under the new direction of Akiva Fox and Adam Sobsey, Seventy Scenes of Halloween mixes mirth with terror in a series numbered scenes, performed almost completely out of order. That’s the play’s principal gimmick, and it can be confusing as to what is real and what is a dream, etc.

During the play’s first three scenes, an otherwise nice normal suburban couple named Jeff and Joan (played by Dan VanHoozer and Emily K. Hill) bicker over whether they are ready for Halloween. (Jeff thinks they aren’t, because Joan forgot to buy some Kandy Korn.) Then the trick-or-treaters (portrayed by Carl Martin and Amber J. Wood as a Beast in a goat’s-head mask and a Witch in full witch regalia, pointy hat and all) start to arrive, some of them peering through Joan and Jeff’s picture window.

Ultimately, Seventy Scenes of Halloween becomes a surreal series of flash-forwards and flashbacks in which Jeff and Joan act like the Battling Bickersons and the trick-or-treaters become increasingly sinister, as if a Manson Family Halloween might be imminent. As Bob Dylan famously crooned, “There is something happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

In Seventy Scenes of Halloween, the humor — and the horror — is in the details, but it would be unfair to reveal more of them here. Suffice it to say that co-directors Akiva Fox and Adam Sobsey could have clarified some points by sharpening the actors’ performances.

Scenic designer Torry Bend’s living room set provides a couple of doors for things that go bump in the night to hide behind, and lighting designer Liz Droessler’s lighting scheme magnifies the creepiness of the situation in which an unbilled fifth actor (assistant stage manager Karen Burns) contributes creepy cameos to this surreal spooktacular.

SECOND OPINION: Dec. 5th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Kate Dobbs Ariail:; Dec. 5th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 2.5 of 5 stars): and Nov. 28th review by David Fellerath:; ; Dec. 5th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC 91.5/North Carolina Public Radio interview with Manbites Dog co-founder Ed Hunt, Seventy Scenes of Halloween co-director Akiva Fox, and actors Carl Martin and Emily Hill, conducted by Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”:; Dec. 4th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks:; and Nov. 28th Durham, NC Duke Chronicle preview by Danielle Muoio:; and Nov. 22nd Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Cliff Bellamy:‘Seventy-Scenes’–Manbites-Dog-Theater-revisits-production-that-started-it-all-? (Note 1: You must register to read this article.) (Note 2: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 30th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click

Manbites Dog Theater presents SEVENTY SCENES OF HALLOWEEN at 3:15 p.m. Dec 9 and 8:15 p.m. Dec. 12-16 at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.

TICKETS: $12 weeknights and $17 Friday-Sunday, except $5 for students with ID and a $2 discount for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel.

BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or


VIDEO PREVIEW (by Jon Haas):







The Play: (Broadway Play Publishing).

The Script: (Google Books).

The Playwright: (


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).