When a great discovery turns deadly, a highly regarded scientist is forced to choose between trusting his eyes or following his brain in order to survive. H.P. Lovecraft’s tale of insanity and science gone awry comes to life in this chilling adaptation.
Schools: This play is school friendly, but is considered PG-13. Some material may be objectionable or sensitive for certain school districts.
Welcome to the Providence, Rhode Island Police Department! Your host and guide, Deputy Lewis Littlewit, will direct you to your seats as he sets the scene…
Earlier tonight, gunshots were reported in the home of eccentric scientist Crawford Tillinghast. When police arrived at the residence, they discovered one Dr. Howard Phillips in Tillinghast’s attic laboratory, lying unconscious with a revolver in his hand. Tillinghast was nowhere to be seen. Dr. Phillips has been brought in for questioning.
Police Inspector Humphrey Theobald suspects foul play, and is determined to get a confession out of Phillips. But, while admitting to firing the gun, Phillips claims he wasn’t aiming at Tillinghast at all, but rather a sinister machine in Tillinghast’s laboratory that must be destroyed at all costs. Thus begins a strange tale of the night’s previous events, moving the interrogation into unexpected territory…
It all started ten weeks ago, when an ebullient Tillinghast crashed a private meeting at the Science Club of Providence to announce the near-completion of a machine in his home laboratory, the culmination of his life’s work—a device that emits ultra-violet rays and will prove beyond doubt that other worlds exist right here “at our very elbows.” The members of the club responded to Tillinghast’s impassioned speech with ridicule and contempt, a reaction shared by Phillips. When Tillinghast revealed to the members that his machine was once a joint project with Phillips when they were students at Miskatonic University, Phillips tried to deny it. Mocked and humiliated, Tillinghast hurled insults at the members and stormed off. Phillips hadn’t seen or heard from Tillinghast since that night; then earlier today, Phillips received a hand-written note from Tillinghast, urging him to come to his home to witness the awesome power of his now operational machine. Despite his apprehension, Phillips’ curiosity got the best of him.
Hearing Phillips’ strange tale piques Inspector Theobald’s curiosity as well. He’s skeptical, but wants to see this machine for himself, if only to get the bottom of the mystery. Plus, if Phillips is indeed innocent as he claims, this may be his only chance to exonerate himself. At first resistant to entering Tillinghast’s home chaperoned by Theobald and Littlewit, Phillips eventually relents, on the condition that the pair follow his instructions once inside the house. Littlewit shepherds the Audience from the Police Inspector’s office to Crawford Tillinghast’s residence.
At Tillinghast’s home, the play shifts back in time as Phillips describes what happened earlier that night through narration and flashbacks. A pale, disheveled, nearly deranged Tillinghast greets Phillips at the door—a startling transformation from the robust man we saw at the Science Club. Once inside the attic laboratory, Tillinghast sits Phillips down to present his machine’s awesome power. The laboratory’s angles and dimensions seem to shift and bend in the ultra-violet rays, revealing an enormous temple overlaying the room and strange shapes flopping and floating about that Tillinghast refers to as his “pets.” Is it all an optical illusion—or has Tillinghast indeed found a gateway to other worlds?
Instead of being awed and impressed as Tillinghast had hoped, Phillips is frightened and aghast. He starts to leave, but Tillinghast lures him back with a well-placed insult. Phillips submits to one more demonstration of the machine’s power. But this time, Tillinghast’s aim is not to impress… but to destroy.
Tillinghast has summoned a god, a monstrous deity “from beyond,” and presents Phillips as an offering. Terrified, Phillips takes a revolver from his coat pocket—one he always carries with him for safety—and blasts the machine. The device sputters and shuts down, but not before the deity descends and…disintegrates Tillinghast, ignoring Phillips completely.
Back in present time, Phillips explains to Theobald that it was at that moment he must have fainted, revolver still in hand. Theobald is dubious, but attributes the evening’s strange events to a case of shattered nerves. Despite Littlewit’s protest, Theobald releases Phillips from arrest on suspicion of murder; though the case is not over, Tillinghast’s body has not been found, so there are no grounds to hold him.
Phillips requests a moment alone in the laboratory, to say a final good-bye to his friend Tillinghast. Theobald allows it, as long as Phillips promises not to disturb anything. Left alone, Phillips can’t help himself—he starts fiddling with the machine, revealing a secret desire to harness its awesome powers for his own purposes if he can repair it. But the machine suddenly sputters to life! Re-enter the monstrous deity! Phillips looks up, now visible to the god in the ultra-violet rays. He screams, unable to turn the machine off, and vanishes in blackout. When the lights return, all that’s left of Phillips is a heap of shredded clothes—like the heap of clothes Tillinghast left behind earlier.
Littlewit returns to tell Phillips that Inspector Theobald needs a final statement. Finding only Phillips’ clothes on the floor, he breaks the fourth wall to ask the Audience if they know what happened here—but then thinks better of it and bids everyone good night!
In the play’s final moment, with the stage quiet and empty, the machine ominously hums back to life, just for an instant—a grim warning—then winks out.
Deputy Lewis Littlewit- (Male 20s/30s) An ardent, by-the-books police deputy. At times, he addresses the Audience directly, shepherding them to different locations as needed.
Dr. Howard Phillips or Dr. Harriet Phillips - (Male or Female 30s) A scientist of modest intellect. Anxious, image-conscious and deeply conformist.
Police Inspector Humphrey Theobald- (Male 50s/60s) A homicide investigator. Curious, thoughtful, and confident.
Crawford Tillinghast or Cassandra Tillinghast- (Male or Female 30s) An obsessive, maverick scientist who craves validation from his/her peers. Friend and former classmate of Phillips.
2-4 Dark Shapes (Optional)- (M/F) Non-speaking beings from another dimension, Tillinghast calls them his “pets,” they are smooth, rubbery and menacing, floating and flopping about, always in motion.
Setting:A Police Inspector’s office; a residential foyer; an attic laboratory. Early 20th Century.
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The required materials for From Beyond include:
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Director's Script – Single-sided script with space for director’s notes.
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