The Thrillpeddlers never fail to deliver, and their annual Shocktoberfest show is what started it all. I've proudly been a fan since they were doing their show in the old Odeon bar, and have been delighted to see how they've grown since getting their own space--the fabulous Hypnodrome.
Their Shocktoberfest show is their homage to/recreation of Grand Guignol theater (for more information, check out grandguignol.com, which is also maintained by the Thrillpeddlers.) In recent years they've also delved into the Theater of the Absurd and musicals, recreating some of the old Cockettes musicals. Music found its way into Shocktoberfest last year with their Fear Over Frisco show (in collaboration with Czar of Noir Eddie Muller.) And there are some very clever musical interludes this year, too. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
First up, Coals of Fire, which is the simplest and most serious of the plays in the show. An old, blind wife spends an evening talking to her young female companion. Secrets are revealed, and of course there's a violent end. But it's really all built on just the two women talking, if that didn't work I'd have been bored way before the big payoff.
Next up, the first musical piece, I'm a Mummy. A comical duet of Mr. and Mrs. Mummy singing about...well, being a mummy, and all that goes with it.
And then, The Bride of Death. A newspaperman and his photographer travel to an old mansion wherein lives Evelyn Maxwell. She's the former star of several bloody horror plays (including Coals of Fire, and many titles from previous Shocktoberfest shows) but has been out of the public eye for decades. Now she's making the jump to the silver screen with an adaptation of her most famous role--The Bride of Death. But something is pretty odd in the house. A creepy doctor, a mute servant, a star who hasn't aged a day in 30 years, and strange singing from the hidden corridors in the house. Very well done!
And then an intermission. Time to fill up on a little more beer.
Coming back from intermission we had another musical piece, Those Beautiful Ghouls, all about sexy demonic ladies. Lady Dracula, Lady Werewolf, etc. Nice.
And finally, the climactic play of The Twisted Pair. Two scientists--Earnest McKenzie and his assistant Anthony Lark--are working in the basement of their boarding house. Their trying to discover the secrets of life--it's in the blood after all. So far they've failed (and just learned Watson and Crick made a big breakthrough on DNA.) All they've really accomplished is making a powerful adhesive. That was Lark's invention, but it turns out that contact with the skin can cause powerful hallucinations. Too bad McKenzie has glued his scalpel to his hand so he can work non-stop. A wonderfully psychotic and hilarious descent into madness and murder. All for the sake of fame, because first comes fame, and then comes funding. Yup, that seems to be how science works. And, of course, it all ends with their famous lights-out horror effects.
There are only a handful of shows left. The special Halloween and night-before-Halloween shows are sold out, but they still play Thursday through Saturday for three more weekends. Advanced tickets are here and I'd suggest you buy early because they tend to sell out.