Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"The Blood Brothers present... Bedlam Nightmares - Execution Day" - For the ghoul in all of us

By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Kent Meister

I've seen some horrific things at the Blood Brothers' shows -- eyelids ripped off, skin peeled, human flesh consumed, rape and incest, and more forms of murder than you can shake a stick at.  But when the lights went down after Nat Cassidy's short play "The Art of What You Want," my first reaction was to lean over and whisper to the person sitting next to me, "THAT was fucked up."

And that was just the first of the short plays.

The final episode of "The Blood Brothers present… Bedlam Nightmares" series provides all the thrills and macabre chills that you've come to expect from the long-running franchise.  Following the now familiar format, "Execution Day" features a series of short plays about inmates in the sinister Hospital One, framed by the story of the Blood Brothers' incarceration and scheduled execution.

Nat Cassidy's play about a very rich, very determined man, Harris (Michael Markham), whose dead wife (Morgan Zipf-Meister) keeps showing up at his house, and the lengths he will go to keep her, is easily one of the creepiest of I've ever seen.  Markham shows great versatility in this piece, and watching him with Kristen Vaughan's Doctor Queen (part of the story that ties the play into the rest of the evening) is a treat, as are Markham's interactions with Lynn Berg's Terry, Harris's best friend.  Featuring the best (and most upsetting) surprise ending I've seen in a while, "The Art of What You Want" sets a very high bar.

Playwright Mariah MacCarthy meets that challenge with the extremely disturbing, and surprisingly gore-free, "Daddy's Girl."  All George (Tom Reid) wants to do is keep his pretty Sely (Jessica Luck) safe as she grows up.  After all, everything he is doing is for her.  And the sooner she realizes that, the easier it will be for her, because Daddy knows best.  Reid is the epitome of the loving father who just goes completely off the rails.  That Reid can inspire both disgust and sympathy from the audience highlights his excellent work in this piece.  And Luck's portrayal of a happy daughter, warily trying to understand her father's smothering behavior and betrayal is exceptional.

Nat Cassidy returns (both as a writer and performer) in the second act with "All in Good Fun" and "Joy Junction" (also credited as "cannibalized" by Mac Rogers for this production).  "Joy Junction," which appeared in an earlier Blood Brothers production, features Christian TV puppeteer Ronald (Roger Nasser) who, when not looking at photos of little kids, is experimenting with new "life-sized" puppets.  Well, you can guess what those puppets really are.  Nasser's Ronald is creepy as hell, in all his saccharine sweetness, but the really disturbing part of this play is one of the most grotesque sound effects I've heard.  If you are easily nauseated, this will set you off.

"All in Good Fun," which features Cassidy on guitar as The Troubadour, completes his song cycle which has been slowly teased out in the earlier episodes of "Bedlam Nightmares," about a 7-year-old serial killer in training who lives in Hospital One.  Maybe he's real.  Maybe he's just a myth.  But he is a hero to some of the inmates.  Cassidy, ghouled up in Blood Brothers make up (pale face and blood red eyes), is mesmerizing, and the piece, directed by Patrick Shearer, features some marvelous theatrical devices - shadow puppetry, moving sets (used to show someone running), projections, mime - and like "The Art of What You Want," a terrific surprise ending.

Not to mention that the song features some catchy hooks that will immediately plant themselves in your brain.  I'm still hearing sections of it in my head a week later.

"Execution Day" the overarching story of the Blood Brothers (Patrick Shearer and Pete Boisvert) and their upcoming execution is everything that I hoped it would be (they are even forced to perform in a final Grand Guignol show featuring a short play, "Arby's," describing their final murder spree that landed them in Hospital One).  Disturbing, funny (thanks in no small part to Bob Laine), surprising, and ultimately completely satisfying.

The only thing that upsetting about the finale is knowing that no matter who wins, you'll have to say goodbye to an amazingly well realized character.  Because it's clear that someone has to die - either the Brothers or Doctor Queen - and the characters are so wonderfully drawn by Mac Rogers and brought to life by the actors that you kind of want to find a way for everyone to live and form a sort of bloodthirsty family.  It's a weird position to find yourself in - rooting for all the psychopaths to win and live happily ever after.

It has been a delight watching Boisvert and Shearer get to stretch their characters outside of their normal  milieu (Shearer's normally suave killer becoming tentative and beaten down, Boisvert's thuggish brother finding a mother in Doctor Queen) and Vaughan's Doctor Queen is a force of nature.  Vaughan gives a speech about what it means to be a true "Master of Horror" that will leave you stunned.  Mac Rogers' words with Vaughan's delivery… priceless.

While I'm sorry to see "Bedlam Nightmares" come to a close, I really enjoyed the ride.

The final episode of "Bedlam Nightmares" is billed as being appropriate for people who haven't seen the rest of the trilogy.  I brought a Blood Brothers virgin to the theatre with me, he confirmed that it was easy to follow without prior knowledge.

So don't be afraid to see the Blood Brothers if you haven't seen the rest of the series.  Just be afraid of the psychopaths you'll see onstage.

"The Blood Brothers present… Bedlam Nightmares - Execution Day"

"Execution Day"
By Mac Rogers
Featuring: Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer (the Blood Brothers), Kristen Vaughan (Doctor Queen), Bob Laine (The Old-Timer), Stephanie Cox-Williams (Grandma Blood), Roger Nasser (Mintz), J. Robert Coppola (Orderly Joe), Nat Cassidy (The Troubadour), Ivanna Cullinan (Sonia/Leslie), Collin McConnell (The New Kid), C. L. Weatherstone (Tim), Andy Chmelko (Jim)

"The Art of What You Want"
By Nat Cassidy
Directed by Pete Boisvert
Featuring: Michael Markham (Harris), Kristen Vaughan (Doctor Queen), Morgan Zipf-Meister (Emily), Lynn Berg (Terry)

"Daddy's Girl"
By Mariah MacCarthy
Directed by Patrick Shearer
Featuring: Tom Reid (George), Jessica Luck (Sely)

"All in Good Fun"
Words and Music by Nat Cassidy
Directed by Patrick Shearer
Featuring: Nat Cassidy (The Troubadour), Stephanie Cox-Williams (Mrs. Albermarle), Bob Laine (Another Old Man), John Hurley (Andre Grijalva), Karle J. Meyers (The Nurse), Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer (The Blood Brothers)

"Joy Junction"
By Nat Cassidy (as cannibalized by Mac Rogers)
Directed by Stephanie Cox-Williams, assisted by Pete Boisvert
Featuring: Roger Nasser (Ronald), Collin McConnell (Marty), Lynn Berg (Marigold)

By Mac Rogers
Featuring: Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer (The Blood Brothers), Stephanie Cox-Williams (Cashier), Bob Laine (Cavaliers Fan), Collin McConnell (Boy), Tom Reid (Manager)

Production and Design
Production Manager: Stephanie Cox-Williams
Production SM/Board Op: Robyne C. Martinez
Assistant Director: Stephanie Cox-Williams
Costume Designer: Karle J. Meyers
Gore/Prop Designer: Pete Boisvert
Graphic Designer: Pete Boisvert
Lighting Designer: Morgan Zipf-Meister
Sound Designer: Patrick Shearer
Original Music: Larry Lees and Nat Cassidy
Producers: Pete Boisvert, Stephanie Cox-Williams, Roger Nasser, Patrick Shearer

The Brick
579 Metropolitan Ave.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
October 22-November 1
8 PM

Halloween party to follow the 10/31 performance

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