By Byrne Harrison
Just in time for Halloween, the Blood Brothers are back with a new evening of horror. After their most recent two shows featuring their take on pulp/noir and the works of Stephen King, their 2009 show returns to the Grand Guignol roots of the original 2006 production that started off this series. The New Guignol rips its terror from the headlines and reminds us that the scariest thing that we can encounter is other people, not the supernatural horrors and bogeymen that are the creations of our own imaginations.
Using real stories as their jumping off point, and proving it by showing copies of the newspaper articles from which they are drawn, The New Guignol presents tales of incest, beheadings (two, in fact), obsession, jealousy . . . well, all the things the Blood Brothers thrive on.
Featuring short plays by Danny Bowes, James Comtois, and Mac Rogers, The New Guignol returns to its Grand Guignol roots by focusing on the gore and savagery of the stories. This takes the form of incestuous rape, the aforementioned beheadings, cannibalism, and the usual brain spatters and gory knifings that we've come to expect from these shows. I will admit, though, that despite the subject matter, this year's production seemed rather less bloody than the previous ones. Ghoulish as it sounds, I wanted a lot more blood, not merely for the shock value, but for the opportunity to admire the special effects. That's not to say that Stephanie Cox-Williams skimped in her special effects design work this year (for the record, the effects were very well done - especially a rather gruesome C-section), it's just that there could have been a lot more of it.
The strongest play of the evening is Biological Mother by Mac Rogers. This tight, well-acted play about a young man seeking his birth mother, and the terrible secrets he unearths, is the most solid of the evening's shows. It features taut direction by Pete Boisvert and some strong performances, particularly Cotton Wright, Jessi Gotta and Marsha Martinez. Among the other strong performances are Becky Byers and Robert Leeds in James Comtois' A Room With No View and Jessi Gotta again in Comtois' creepy The Itch.
Overall, some of the best moments of the show (and this is true of the previous Blood Brothers productions, as well) are those featuring Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer as the ghoulish Blood Brothers. Shearer excels as the erudite and well-spoken sociopath, oozing charm and menace. Boisvert's strength is in playing the more bestial brother in a way that inspires both laughs and fear.
As with the best horror, there has to be a little bit of a twist to shake things up a bit. In The New Guignol, the twist involves incorporating the audience into the show. It's not something so mundane as audience interaction; that's not really the Blood Brothers' style. But this clever and chilling "There but for the grace of God go I" moment, ends the evening on a decidedly creepy note.
The Blood Brothers Present . . . The New Guignol
Written by: Danny Bowes (Steve, Nothing We Can Do), James Comtois (A Room With No View, The Itch, Dominique), Mac Rogers (An Introduction to the New Guignol, On This Bus Forever, Biological Mother)
Directed by: Pete Boisvert (An Introduction to the New Guignol, Biological Mother), Patrick Shearer (An Introduction to the New Guignol, Nothing We Can Do, On This Bus Forever), Abe Goldfarb (A Room With No View), Matt Johnston (The Itch), Stephanie Cox-Williams (Steve), Rebecca Comtois (Dominique)
Stage Managers: Stephanie Cox-Williams and Dana Rossi
Costume Designer: Sarah Riffle
Costume Designer (A Room With No View): Madame Rosebud
Lighting Designer: Daniel Winters
Makeup Designer: Leslie Hughes
Scenic Designer: Arnold Bueso
Sound Designer: Patrick Shearer
Special Effects Designer: Stephanie Cox-Williams
Fight Choreography: Stephanie Cox-Williams and Patrick Shearer
Original Music: Larry Lees
Press Agent: James Comtois
Graphic Production: Pete Boisvert
Video Production: Marc Landers
Program Editor: Dana Rossi
Producers: Pete Boisvert, James Comtois, Rebecca Comtois, Stephanie Cox-Williams, Patrick Shearer
Featuring: Ryan Andes (Lee, Young Man), Becky Byers (Elisabeth, Passenger 2), Rebecca Comtois (Joyce, Woman), Jessi Gotta (Gail Woman), Stephen Hesket (Toby, Nurse 1), Robert Leeds (Josef, Voice, Passenger 2), Marsha Martinez (Shannon, Young Woman, Nurse), Ben VandenBoom (Solider, Nurse, Cop), Cotton Wright (Andrea, Doctor)
The Brick Theater
575 Metropolitan Avenue
October 28-31, 8 PM