This Halloween weekend, Western New Yorkers of all ages will be faced with some frightening decisions. The days preceding the spookiest of holidays are filled with far more entertaining options than we can count, each providing ample opportunity to let loose amid the area's morose Tim Burton-esque landscape of downed tree limbs and lingering damage from the storm of two weeks past.
You could, for instance, take in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's "Masquerade Ball" at 8 p.m. today and Saturday. Or there's the "Altars/Day of the Dead" opening Saturday at El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera, 91 Allen St.
Indeed, there is no shortage of Halloween treats. What follows are just a few ideas, from plays to polkas. There are a ton of other great suggestions in today's Gusto calendar. Some are off the beaten path and some more mainstream, but, as the macabre master himself Vincent Price once said, "A man who limits his interests limits his life."
>The 'Dead' zone
*"Night of the Living Dead" presented by the Towne Players of Ken-Ton at 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday, next Friday and Nov. 4. Sheridan Parkside Community Building, 169 Sheridan Parkside Drive, Tonawanda. 693-9641. $7-$8.
*"Night of the Living Dead" presented by Starry Night Theatre at 8 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday. Ghostlight Theatre, 170 Schenck St., North Tonawanda. 743-1614. www.starrynighttheatre.com. $12 general, $10 students and seniors.
Never have the dead been so alive in Western New York. This weekend will boast two separate productions of the stage version of George Romero's classic 1968 film "Night of the Living Dead."
For Paul E. Sturner, a local actor who got his start in mid-1930s variety shows, an opportunity to play a zombie in the Tonawanda Towne Players' stage version of "Night of the Living Dead" was too much to pass up.
"I can't do as much as I used to, but dramatics has been my thing since 1933," said Sturner, a longtime Towne Players member whose first role came in a high school production of "Tillie, A Menonite Maid."
"I'm already kind of bent-over, I'm not straight-backed like I used to be," Sturner said of his appropriateness for the role. "When they brought up the show at a board meeting, I said 'Hey, you got a part for me?'"
Sure enough, the play's director, Glenn Jumper, offered Sturner one of at least 12 zombie roles. The play, adapted for the stage by Lori Allen Ohm in 2000, is also playing this weekend at the Ghostlight Theatre in North Tonawanda. This particular theater, run by the Starry Night Theatre Company, has the added bonus of being deeply haunted itself, at least according to its proprietors and several paranormal experts from around the state.
*Murder in the Disco. 9 tonight. 505 Hamburg St. Sliding price scale from $12 to $25 based on your costume.
Arguably the hippest Halloween activity of the weekend, "Murder in the Disco" is truly a rarity in Buffalo. Local organizers WorkShop Inc and Krudmart are bringing the monthly Brooklyn party-of-the-moment, "The Rub," to Buffalo, with New York City's DJ Ayres, DJ Eleven and Cosmo Baker. The event, held in one of Buffalo's illustrious abandoned warehouses, is based on the theme of "recently deceased or not-so-recently deceased '70s disco patrons" and works on a sliding admission scale.
"People come to the Rub to dance," said DJ Ayres, at the moment one of the hottest DJs in New York City. "We're primarily a hip-hop and classics party, but we end up playing all sorts of stuff, like house, dancehall, rock stuff, electro and a ton of other stuff."
A large out-of-town contingent is expected, with big crowds expected from Toronto. The way the pricing works is a bit complicated, but the general rule is the more risque you dress, the less you pay. It's $12 if you show up in anything other than clothes (the flier suggests duct tape and saran wrap), $15 if you show up as a murdered disco patron or celebrity, $20 for a standard costume and $25 if you show up as yourself.
Ayres and company weren't in on the "murder in the disco" theme, but he says it plays well with the visiting DJs.
"It's dope for us, because we love playing disco, and of course we are murderers as well, so it's a fitting theme," he said. "And Halloween is always the best Rub of the year, it just brings the nuts out, so I'm sure it will be the same in Buffalo."
> Charitable treats
*Cozumel Halloween Party, 153 Elmwood Ave., 8 p.m. Saturday. $10.
*"Buffalo's Biggest Halloween Bash," 6 p.m. Saturday. Buffalo Central Terminal, 495 Paderewski Drive. $10 advance, $15 door.
College parties can sometimes get out of hand. More than 20 years after Tom Slivan and Jason Mang began their locally famous yearly Halloween party in Buffalo college houses, it grew so big they had to move it into a bar. Now, the event attracts more than 400 attendees and some of the best costumes in town and donates its proceeds to places such as Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo -- not bad for a party started by college students on a whim.
"It's grown almost exponentially from the early days, which were pretty much 15 or 20 people sitting around in the living room looking like they went to the Salvation Army," said Slivan, who along with his friends has been holding the party at Cozumel on Elmwood Avenue for three years running. "Now it's turned into a full-blown event, and people have been dressing themselves up and pretty much planning their costumes a year ahead of time."
The organizers will donate proceeds from the party to Women and Children's Hospital's Parents and Children Together (PACT) program, which provides services to infants born with HIV or drug and alcohol dependencies. This year's party will also feature a performance by Ron Hawkins of Lowest of the Low, a competitive costume contest and decorations from Buffalo haunted house company Frightworld.
Over at the Central Terminal, the Variety Club is throwing its own major charity event. It's billed as "Buffalo's Biggest Halloween Bash," hosted by WEDG's Shredd and Ragan and featuring live music from About Face. The party takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday and keeps going until midnight. There will be a $2,000 grand prize for the best costume and a host of other activities. Advance tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com.
>Heavy on metal
*STEMM Halloween Show. 6 p.m. Saturday. The Buffalo Icon, 391 Ellicott St. 842-0167. www.thebuffaloicon.com. $10.
For the Buffalo-based metal band STEMM, Halloween has always been a time to stretch out and have a little fun. The group's particular brand of Halloween metal mayhem had previously been confined to the city of Niagara Falls, but this year they've decided to take the show to the Buffalo Icon, a venue they've sold out in the past.
"It's not all devil horns in the air," said the band's guitarist and vocalist Joe Cafarella. "We like to make our fans laugh and always keep 'em guessing."
The show also doubles as the CD release party for the band's latest album, "Songs for the Incurable Heart," an independently released disc recently picked up, along with the band itself, by I Scream Records.
Cafarella was tight-lipped about what exactly the band has planned for its fans, but if Halloween shows past are any indication, it'll be nothing short of frightening.
"A couple of years ago I was Leatherface [from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"] and was swinging around a real chainsaw on stage," Cafarella said. "It was really cool. We've got a couple of tricks up our sleeves this time."
>Taste of polka
Halloween Polka Dance. 8 p.m. Saturday. Polish Falcons Hall, 445 Columbia Ave., Depew. 684-2373, 896-1376, 683-4340 or 892-1401. $8 advance, $9 door.
If metal shows and disco murder scenes seem a bit too heavy, there's no reason to despair. For the fourth year in a row, the Polish Falcons Hall in Depew will host a Halloween polka dance party, which can't possibly be any scarier than reruns of the Lawrence Welk show -- and probably a lot more fun.
"It's all Polish music, people dressing up, something different to kind of just get out a little," said Len Zak, an event organizer, who implored those looking for something different to check out the event. "Even if you're not into Polish people, come have a beer and hang out."
The evening will feature music by Jerry Darlak and the Touch and a costume contest culminating in a $100 cash prize.
*"Skeleton Key." 7 p.m. today. $8.
*"Rocky Horror Picture Show." Doors open at 11 p.m. Saturday. $10.
Historic Palace Theatre, 2 East Ave., Lockport. 438-1130. www.lockportpalacetheatre.com.
What do you do when someone hands you a bag filled with toast, newspapers, a couple handfuls of rice, a squirt gun and some playing cards? The answer has something to do with Tim Curry in fishnet stockings, and it isn't pretty -- but it can be a heck of a lot of fun.
After a hiatus of several years, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is finally returning to Western New York. This time around, the historic Palace Theatre in Lockport will play host to the spectacle, complete with a live cast of dancers.
If you arrive unprepared or are unfamiliar with the peculiarities of a public viewing of the 1975 cult film, a big bag of props is available at the door for $10.
If you're looking for a scare that's a bit more recent, the psychological thriller "Skeleton Key" starring Kate Hudson hits the screen tonight.