Thursday, October 25, 2007

Review – The Blood Brothers Present . . . Pulp (The Blood Brothers and Nosedive Productions)

Stage Buzz review by Byrne Harrison

The Blood Brothers are back. After last year’s successful production, The Blood Brothers Present . . . An Evening of Grand Guignol Horror, the ghoulish Brothers Blood (Patrick Shearer and Pete Boisvert) have returned bringing panic, terror, wit and gore to a city that can’t seem to get enough of it. This year’s production, a perfect lead in for Halloween, features three short plays sandwiched between gory vignettes. Not everything in Pulp works, but the show features many more hits than misses.

The theme of this year’s production is ‘pulp,’ as in the pulp fiction of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Two of the three short plays hit this style dead on. The first, Best Served Cold by Mac Rogers, is a suspenseful tale of a woman’s revenge on the woman who stole her man. Set in a diner late at night, and narrated by the delightfully cold Patrick Shearer, Best Served Cold shows the confrontation between wronged Marybeth (Anna Kull) and Brianne (Jessi Gotta), the diner owner and woman who ran away with Nick (Marc Landers) and all Marybeth’s money. The play is tight, clever and suspenseful and is very deftly directed by Patrick Shearer and Pete Boisvert. The acting is outstanding, with particularly high marks going to Gotta and Kull.

The other play that hits the nail on the head is James Comtois’ Listening to Reason - a fun little play, full of malice and threat, but with a tidy surprise-ending. In this one, Marc Landers is back playing a serial killer who preys on young women. Hounded by the police and by Patrick Shearer, who again narrates and seems to be inside the killer’s head (one hesitates to call so malicious a voice ‘his conscience’), he takes shelter in the apartment of Miss Greene (Jessi Gotta). Unlike most of the women who venture onstage in a Blood Brothers play, Miss Greene lives. Comtois’ twist is excellent and brings to mind the old mysteries on ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents.’ Jessi Gotta is, once again, particularly good, and Listening to Reason gives Marc Landers a chance to shine as the brutish killer.

The third play in Pulp is a disappointment. Dead Things Kill Nicely, by Qui Nguyen, ignores the pulp genre entirely and tries for comic horror, along the lines of the recent Evil Dead: The Musical. The story, a young girl (Gyda Arber) “saved” from zombies by crazy woman, Story (Stephanie Cox-William), and her creepy son, Rhyme (Pete Boisvert), is okay, and could actually have been fun. Unfortunately, it was hampered by forced dialogue spoken in accents that would have made the Monty Python boys wince. It was also the only one of the three main plays not using a narrator. Stylistically, this made it stick out. While this was my least favorite piece of the evening, it did feature a truly creepy turn by Pete Boisvert as the gravel-voiced Rhyme – so named because he speaks in nursery rhymes. He does such a marvelous job, Rhyme is guaranteed to make an appearance in your next nightmare.

Surrounding the three main plays are four vignettes that have less to do with Pulp and more to do with the Blood Brothers. These are the gory, creepy little tales to disgust and delight the audience. The first of these, Metaphor by James Comtois, features the entire Blood family – Shearer again, as the more literate of the Brothers, Boisvert, as the other brother, and Stephanie Cox-Williams as Gramma Blood. In this vignette, Shearer explains the similarities between theatre and surgery, using his brother as a handy visual aid. The second piece, a comic, and bloody magic show called Something Up His Sleeve, features Brian Silliman as the Magician, with Anna Kull as his hapless assistant. The two creepiest pieces follow. In the first, Bugs In My Skin, Michael Criscuolo plays a young man who comes to appreciate his little multi-legged insect friends to the point of wanting to turn himself into one. Not only is it freakishy disturbing, but it features some excellent directing by Stephanie Cox-Williams. The final vignette is a brutal piece about torture featuring Arber and Kull called What Color Is The Sun?

It is worth mentioning that the bloody special effects in The Blood Brothers Present . . . Pulp are more sophisticated than last year’s, and as such, are much more fun to watch. While there is no guarantee that Nosedive will continue this to bring back the Blood Brothers and their gory stories, if this is an indication of what they can do after only two years, I can only imagine what the Blood Brothers could be with a couple more years, and many more corpses, under their belts. The Blood Brothers Present . . . Pulp closes soon – don’t miss it.

Written by James Comtois, Mac Rogers, Pete Boisvert, Patrick Shearer, Qui Nguyen
Directed by Rebecca Comtois, Patrick Shearer, Pete Boisvert, Stephanie Cox-Williams, Matt Johnston
Production Manager: Stephanie Cox-Williams
Stage Manager: Jessica Lazar
Board Operator: Mike Caputo
Fight Choreographer: Qui Nguyen
Lighting Designer: Phil Shearer
Makeup Designer: Leslie Hughes
Sound Designer: Patrick Shearer
Original Music: Larry Lees
Press Agent: James Comtois
Producers: Pete Boisvert, Rebecca Comtois, Stephanie Cox-Williams, Patrick Shearer
Associate Producers: James Comtois, Marc Landers

Featuring Gyda Arber (Serena, Molly, First Victim, Croceus), Michael Criscuolo (Tired Driver, Man, Police Officer), Jessi Gotta (Brianne, Miss Greene), Anna Kull (Marybeth, The Assistant, Second Victim, Tormina), Marc Landers (Nick, Killer), Brian Silliman (Officer Clancy, The Magician, Brad, Mr. Tucker), Pete Boisvert (Brother Blood, Rhyme), Stephanie Cox-Williams (Gramma Blood, Story), Patrick Shearer (Brother Blood)

The 78th Street Theatre Lab
236 W. 78th Street, 2nd Floor

Through Saturday, October 27th