Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Blood Brothers Present . . . The Master of Horror (The Blood Brothers and Nosedive Productions)

Review by Byrne Harrison
Photos by Aaron Epstein

After a year spent dreaming up fresh horrors for Gotham's citizens, the Blood Brothers are back. And this time, they've brought along a famous friend.

Nosedive Productions has been given the rights to stage four plays based on the Stephen King short stories Nona, Quitters, Inc., In The Deathroom, and his poem, Paranoid: A Chant. Serving as a frame for the plays is James Comtois' The Last Waltz. This piece, based on a chapter of King's nonfiction work, Danse Macabre, covers the mayhem and murder that has been blamed on King's work and features the delightfully homicidal Family Blood (Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer as the titular Blood Brothers, Rebecca Comtois as Sister Blood) acting out the various immolations, impalements, and murders with bloodthirsty glee. Just hearing Boisvert hiss "They're all going to laugh at you" to a woman who had been impaled with kitchenware (à la Carrie's mother) was enough to make this one of my favorite parts of the show.

The first King show of the evening is Nona, a play about obsession and the lengths a man will go to for his dream woman, real or not. Loverboy (Jeremy Goren) is not much of a man until he meets the sultry and desperate Nona (Jessi Gotta). Where she leads, he follows even if it means murder and madness. The play, ably adapted by James Comtois, features some nice special effects, a healthy dose of blood, and some excellent fight choreography by Qui Nguyen, who does his usual bang up job. Well paced by director Shearer, it nonetheless lacks a certain amount of suspense. As with any play, props must be changed, sets moved, and "dead" actors must leave the stage. Shearer does what he can to keep the audience in the moment so the suspense can build, but the interruptions take their toll.

The second play, Quitters, Inc., adapted by Qui Nguyen, attempts to add a note of humor to the evening. This tale of Richard (Michael Criscuolo), who wants to give up smoking, and Vic Donatti (Marc Landers), who is willing to do absolutely anything to absolutely anybody to ensure Richard's success, is somewhat overwritten by Nguyen and seems somewhat under-rehearsed. This combination makes the play drag. That said, Nguyen proves adept at using flashback - the play begins with the reunion of the man and his wife (Marsha Martinez) and jumps back in time as he explains what led up to it - and Boisvert proves adept at directing it, making Martinez a witness to the scenes as Landers and Criscuolo act them out, while reacting as though she's being told a story by Criscuolo. All in all, a nice effect, and a good way to adapt the story for stage.

The next play, Paranoid: A Chant, is a monologue which will be familiar to anyone who has sat near an unbalanced person on the subway. The Paranoiac (Jessi Gotta) is being watched - and studied - and recorded - but she's one step ahead of them. She knows their tricks. Played with outstanding intensity by Gotta, who manages to make the the audience feel her stifling paranoia and makes them feel claustrophobic in the creeping darkness, and directed with a manic intensity by Boisvert, this is the highlight of the evening.

The final piece, Mac Rogers' In the Deathroom, is the best in terms of a story that translates well to the stage. Following Fletcher (Ben Trawick-Smith), a NY Times reporter who is being tortured by the sadistic Heinz (Christian Toth) under the orders of Pilar (Marsha Martinez) and Escobar (Jeremy Goren), a couple of petty dictators in an unnamed Latin American country, this tale of love and revenge is a tight, well-written, well-directed (Boisvert again), and well-acted play. Of particular note is Toth, whose Heinz is an evil maniac, but one who is slave to his passions. In the Deathroom also features a wonderfully gruesome special effect that occurs during an electrocution.

Although the adaptations vary in their degrees of success, overall The Blood Brothers Present . . . The Master of Horrors delivers what it promises - humor, fear, and a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your point of view) dose of gore. And when was the last time you saw a group of actors who could be so good at being so evil?

Written by James Comtois, Qui Nguyen and Mac Rogers
Adapted from the short stories of Stephen King
Directed by Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer
Stage Managers: Stephanie Cox-Williams and Ben VandenBoom
Fight Choreographer: Qui Nguyen
Lighting Designer: Leslie Hughes
Sound Designer: Patrick Shearer
Special Effects Coordinator: Stephanie Cox-Williams
Original Music: Larry Lees
Press Agent: James Comtois
Producers: Pete Boisvert, James Comtois, Rebecca Comtois, Stephanie Cox-Williams, Marc Landers, Ben VandenBoom, and Patrick Shearer
Associate Producer: Jessi Gotta

Featuring: Rebecca Comtois (Sister Blood), Michael Criscuolo (Morrison/Ramon/Trucker #2), Jeremy Goren (Loverboy, Escobar), Jessi Gotta (Nona, the Paranoiac), Marc Landers (Cook/Blanchette/Donatti), Marsha Martinez (Cindy, Pilar), Ben Trawick-Smith (Ace Merrill/Good Samaritan/Fletcher), Christian Toth (Trucker #1, Cop, Jimmy McCann/Heinz)

Endtimes Underground
at the Gene Frankel Theatre
24 Bond Street (between Bowery & Lafayette)

October 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30-31, and November 1, 2008
7:30 PM