L. Ron Hubby is a demon bride in Kiss of Blood, one of three horrifically terrific plays in the Thrillpeddler’s Shocktoberfest!! 2010. Below Daniel Bakken and Kara Emry in Lips of the Damned. Photos by www.davidallenstudio.com
There’s nothing like the ooze of blood to usher in the holiday season. And by holiday season, I mean Halloween, which suddenly seems to be more reverently and feverishly celebrated than Thanksgiving.
While some theater companies rely on A Christmas Carol to boost their holiday box office, San Francisco’s Thrillpeddlers rely on blood, gore and cheap thrills. Who needs Scrooge when you have dismembered body parts?
Shocktoberfest!! the “annual pageant of terror and titillation,” has returned with three one-acts: one new, one old and one old newly updated. The plays are performed in the classic Grand Guignol style, which is to say anything goes on stage, and by anything, I mean in the blood and sex departments.
Dubbed Kiss of Blood, this year’s edition – the 11th – is silly, gory and a lot of fun. Watching these three one-acts offers the same kind of pleasures you might experience watching a trashy/terrific horror movie from the early 1970s. You have deliciously hammy performances bumping up against some outright terrible performances all submerged in just the right amount of gooey crimson stage blood.
My favorite of the trio is Kiss of Blood, a 1929 gem by Jean Aragny and Francis Nelson in an English translation by Daniel Zilber. The play opens with a botched brain surgery (the sound of the drill is enough to give you chills) and proceeds to follow a physician (Flynn DeMarco in a perfectly pulpy B-movie-style performance) as he deals with a crazed patient (Eric Tyson Wertz) and his dastardly digit. The guy’s finger hurts so much he’s contemplating suicide.
Of course there’s much more to the story, as we find in a nifty special-effects moment involving strobe lights and the ghostly figure of L. Ron Hubby. Scalpels and axes keep the action, how should we put it, lively.
The other two plays have their pleasures as well. Rob Keefe’s Lips of the Damned (suggested by La Veuve, an early Grand Guignol comedy) is very much like a French chapter of the Saw horror movie series with its punishing use of a life-size guillotine and a head cage designed to silence outspoken women (called a “scold’s bridle”).
In The Empress of Colma, Keefe has fun with 1970s drag queens as they squabble over a beauty queen title. I thought the Colma connection would somehow involve corpses or, at the very least, graveyards, but what we get instead is a juicy performance by Russell Blackwood, chief Thrillpeddler and director of all three plays, as Crystal, the reigning empress (complete with sash and crown – boy, does she put that crown to some interesting use). Wertz plays first-runner-up Patty Himst (get it? opposite of Patty Hearst) and Birdie-Bob Watt is Sunny, a ditzy blonde intent on using an iron to straighten her hair. Hmmmm. A sizzling hot iron amid ferociously fighting drag divas? That can’t turn out well.
Blackwood and his game cast are having a grand time, as usual, and they even throw in something of a Halloween carol between plays one and two. The happy horror holiday his here, and there’s no better way to celebrate than at the Hypnodrome drinking in the bloody delights of Shocktoberfest!!
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Thrillpeddler’s Shocktoberfest!! 2010: Kiss of Blood continues through Nov. 19 at the Hypnodrome Theatre, 575 10th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $25 general ($35 for a “Shock Box” or a “Turkish Lounge”). Call 800 838-3006 or visit http://thrillpeddlers.com for information.
Kiss of Blood is at 8pm Thursdays and Fridays, and the oft-extended hit Pearls Over Shanghai is at 8pm Saturdays in October (more performances added in November and December). Read my review of Pearls here. Pearls is finally scheduled to close Dec. 19.