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Traipsing Through Silent Hill
Artwork Graciously Provided by the Incredibe Steven Luna

Part Twelve, or Puppets, Stage Directions, and Thou

  When last we left Travis, he had made his way from Cedar Grove Sanitarium to the Artaud Theater by means most unsavory. That is to say, he stumbled through a lumberyard and some dude’s/dudette’s apartment because Silent Hill is a huge fan of unexplainable sinkholes. Also, there was plenty of side commentary regarding shitty cameras, shitty controls, and why blood-as-ink is a stupid and overused trope.

  So we are in the lobby of the Artaud Theater, which I’m assuming is named after “Theater of Cruelty” creator Antonin Artaud, a French man about the stage. I mean, it would make sense considering the whole child endangerment theme of the game thus far. Anyway, the idea of Theater of Cruelty, very briefly, is that it essentially assaults the audience’s emotions and perceptions through whatever theatrical means available. This was done so that the show was as close to the audience’s perception of reality as it could comfortably come. Or something like that. He also apparently believed that dreams and imagination were just as real as our waking experiences, which once again kind of fits into the theme of the game up until now.

  Why, yes, I did happen to look at his Wikipedia entry, why do you ask?

  From all appearances, it looks like the theater was getting ready to perform William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which is an overly complicated play involving a deposed ruler and his daughter, magic, an air spirit, a deformed attempted rapist who for some reason isn’t killed, and a bunch of chucklefucks doing stupid things. I’m… not a big fan.

  Anyway, the first major thing of note is next to the entrance to the auditorium: there’s a promo sheet for the play, describing how the costume designs incorporated… well, we’ll get to that part in a bit. It does make mention of something called the Cult of Valtiel or some shit, so I guess that may be important for future reference. What appears to be the most pertinent bit of information is that there are six words in red: “Caliban has it in his cave”. So I guess that our main goal of this stage is to kick Caliban’s ass and…

  Wait… wait… holy shit.

  I’m given a clear directive within the first minute of the stage? I… um… was the normal stage designer out sick that day? I’m not complaining, just concerned.

  Anyway, Caliban. In the play, this is the deformed attempted rapist I mentioned earlier. I’m sure he’s been turned into a horrible monstrous entity, which sucks if it just so happens to be the actor playing the part. But I’m sure even if that was the case that he won’t be characterized so that there will be precisely zero moral ambiguity about whether or not he deserves to be brained by a table lamp.

  Looking around the lobby reveals that this particular troupe has a bit of a thing with Shakespeare. You know, I never really liked Shakespearean plays all that much. I mean, I get why they're instrumental to the English language and all that, but we’ve told so many better stories since then. Hell, even The Lion King is an infinitely simpler and much less whiney version of Hamlet.

  Oh, and Romeo and Juliet is fucking terrible.

  But I digress.

  There isn’t a whole lot to do in the lobby, so I wander into the auditorium. Upon first entering, the camera makes it look like there’s another note to pick up, but it’s not the case. So Travis walks down the center aisle away and trips directly into a cutscene. Will it be nonsensical to the point of stupid? Probably!

I made this and it makes me so happy.
It was an off-hand joke yesterday, but my brain wouldn't let it go. Original image source: Wikipedia.

  Lisa is just chilling in the dark theater when Travis walks past her and asks “What are you doing here?” all cool-like. He sounds like he would like Lisa to not be anywhere, really, but especially not near him. He tells her that it’s dangerous, but she’s not convinced and instead begins to… flirt, I guess?

  She apparently wanted to be an actress once upon a time, but a family tradition of the ladyfolk being nurses pressured her into becoming the latter. She says that she still has the chops for it, and then proceeds to hit on Travis, which is basically what she was doing before only now she’s all super touchy and it’s kind of uncomfortable. Then she’s all “lol, jk!” and laughs and laughs and says “See! I could be a star!” in an absolutely preposterous way. It’s cringe-worthy.

  Anyway, Travis chuckles and agrees, and then the Lisa just leaves. Why the HELL did that fucking happen? What did we learn about Alessa, Crispy Girl, Dr. Skeeves, this town, or even fucking Lisa or Travis for Christ’s sake!? The plot went nowhere, did nothing, and all I learned from this is that Lisa thinks that wildly oscillating between moods is a perfectly acceptable method of human interaction!

  That’s it, Lisa! You’re now on my shit list!

  Back to exploring this place, off to stage right is a storage area that has an upside-down and very naked doll hanging from the ceiling. It’s not doing a whole lot now (apparently in for repairs, if Travis’s guess is right), but it has the tell-tale wet glisten of an enemy, so I’m not fooled. I steal a typewriter off the desk to show that I mean business, and then I leave for the stage.

  I can only access the proscenium because a curtain is down and Travis hates peaking—he lives for the surprise of the show. Wandering across the thrust throws me into a blue-filter flashback, where we get some acted out lines from Act One, Scene Two of The Tempest. The gentleman playing Prospero (Tony) gets a nosebleed and has to stop rehearsal. It’s riveting, I assure you.

  Where the storage room was on stage right is home to the curtain control on stage left. Back in my theater days, everything was on stage right, but we were also basically performing out of an old shoebox. Anyway, this room has some heavy weights that I steal for the express purpose of braining monstrosities and a note that complains about how the lights and the emergency curtain are on the same fuse, so if you blow a fuse in an emergency, everyone can die horribly. Unless it’s already down, at which point, it’s going to be more difficult for emergency crews to scrape the remains of the actors off the scenery.

  For those of you who don’t know, the safety/emergency/fire curtain is basically a heavy ass… erm, curtain… that is designed to slam to the stage and prevent an onstage fire from spreading into the audience. Namely because it’s apparently preferable to have your entire troupe die in a fire than the audience burn alive. I guess it’s an insurance thing. Or maybe people are worried about bad press.

  I just wanted to point out that this is actually a thing.

  Also, I really do believe that a theater was so constructed so poorly as to have massive wiring issues that would potentially make things like this happen. This is actually the most believable thing about this game at the moment. If you ignore the fact that Travis could just nudge the curtain aside to get to the stage at any point.

  But whatever.

  I also discover some live ammunition in here, which makes me suspect that someone on the crew “accidentally” left this out hopping for a massive prop catastrophe that blows a hole in one of the actor’s heads.

  In the halls behind the curtain control room that flank the theater, I see another doll hanging from the ceiling. I know what’s going on, and extinguish my flashlight. Helen Grady may have been an attempted murderer, but she didn’t raise a fool!

  … is what I would be saying if I didn’t blunder into a cutscene where Travis has his light on, the doll comes to life, and then I’m dumped right back into gameplay long enough for it to wrap its hands around Travis’s throat and I’m unable to do anything but sigh.

  So, puppets. Puppets are loud little fuckers that can take a fair amount of punishment. If they’re on the ceiling, which they usually are, they don’t do any damage to Travis. Their only attack is to strangle him, which initiates a button-mashing prompt. Repeatedly hit X on the controller, and Travis breaks free with only a slightly redder neck. Fail to do so, and Travis dies.

  Literally, that’s it. No damage. Just rapidly hit X to not die.

  Now, they can get knocked to the ground, which means that they then walk about on their hands and kick you. The big problem with these attacks is that they’re always just a bit longer than your weapons, meaning that they can hit you just out of range of any of your attacks, stunning you for another kick to the stomach. But once you hit them, it’s just a matter of continuing to slap them silly until they fall and stay there.

  So another enemy that is painfully underwhelming. I miss the ghost girdles. :(

  Also, outside of the meat hook, the wrenches are amazing. They’re super durable and pummel monsters pretty handily. 10/10.

  I sneak into the director’s office, hoping to talk him out of casting Lisa, only to discover the place empty. There’s a light tablet or sun tablet right in front of me, so I steal it because, hey, I’ve stolen every other shitty thing I’ve come across, why not this? I also swipe the director’s handwritten notes, because there’s gotta be some juicy shit in there. I was a director once—my notes were hilarious.

  Sadly this guy actually seems to take his job seriously. In his notes, he says that he noticed a young girl playing hooky in the audience, but he let her stay because he took pity on her. He got good feedback from her—namely, that she was terrified of Caliban (which he says is the result of costuming and not the actor or the fact that the character is an attempted rapist) and hated Prospero (um… the hero? Isn’t that the opposite of what you want?).

  The note actually ends in reference to the flashback we heard earlier. The guy playing Prospero—Tony—got a monster nosebleed at the end of Act One, Scene Two and had to stop rehearsal. Prospero isn’t mentioned by name here, and it requires a little bit of knowledge of Shakespeare to realize that it was indeed referencing Tony and not, say, whatever dipshit played Caliban.

  It should be pointed out that the girl in question more than likely isn’t Lisa. Although it would be logical to assume such things, since that super awkward conversation we just had with the nurse made it clear that one, she creeps around in the dark theater and two, she desperately wanted to be an actress, I think the reference to “girl” rather than “woman” is clearly telling. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the nosebleed was caused by Creepy Girl—after all, she intensely hated Prospero to make mention of it to the director. And since she has at least some degree of power (last episode’s nurse-splosion, booting Travis out of the mirror dimension, etc.), it’s entirely believable that before she was Creepy Girl, she was running away from school to watch the play and accidentally gave a dude a nosebleed.

  So why the hell would she be playing hooky? The plot… it thickens like a fine gravy.

  There’s also a service pistol, one of the two new types of ammo I’ve been picking up here and there since exiting the apartment building! I have no idea why that’s here, but I’m guessing this director is a bit more unorthodox with the methods he uses to inspire his actors. I always showed my actors what I expected and never asked them to do anything I wasn’t willing to do (unless they were pre-trained and volunteered to do it—like backflips, because fuck that). He threatens them with shooting.

  I get painfully bored by this director-who-isn’t-me and crash the other accessible room—the men’s changing room. There’s a mirror in here, so this marks the beginning of our descent into the nightmare world of theater. There is a katana in here for some reason—did they take a break in Shakespeare to do a Kirosawa adaptation?—and a note that I will save for next time, namely because I’ve complained enough about this troupe for the day and I want to give them a respite.

  Off you go, lads and lasses! Join me next time for White People Theater 101: Appropriating Others’ Cultures Without Context, a Primer.

Purchase Project Northwoods at Amazon.com.   Purchase Washed Hands at Amazon.com   Purchase Improbables at Amazon.com.

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