Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jason goes to the Hypnodrome for Shocktoberfest 2013: Jack the Ripper

Oh yes, sometimes I actually go see live theater instead of movies. And my favorite live theater is with the Thrillpeddlers at the Hypnodrome. I've actually been following the Thrillpeddlers since before they had the Hypnodrome, when they were doing their Grand Guignol show, Shocktoberfest! at the old Odeon Bar. Things have changed quite a bit since then, and the Hypnodrome (especially the shock boxes) really up the game.

Anyway, in the spirit of the original Grand Guignol, Shocktoberfest 2013 was a series of short plays, alternating between sexy farces and blood-curdling terror (with bloody special effects).

First up, A VISIT TO MRS. BIRCH AND THE YOUNG LADIES OF THE ACADEMY (Scene One): Author unknown, from 1888, just a spanking scene. That is, the housekeeper likes to spy on the young girls getting spanked by the headmistress, then the girls catch her and spank her. I guess this was the 1888 version of porn, and it takes a unique sensibility to put it on stage today.

JACK THE RIPPER: Originally written by André de Lorde and Pierre Chaine for the Grand Guignol in 1934, this is the premiere of the new English adaptation by Carl Grose. Based on the legend of Jack the Ripper, we have a city gripped in terror, an unruly prostitute used as bait, and a tale of blood and madness. Great, great stuff.

Then a brief intermission, and on to the second half of the show.

SALOME was a short, funny, sexy, and twisted musical take on Oscar Wilde's play. Very freakin' cool.

And finally, the grand finale with THE WRONG RIPPER: or, HEADLINE NOOSE: or, PAGEANT FOR THE HANDSOME ACCUSED. Now, I have no idea if the newspaper sensationalism aspect of this brand new play is inspired by the theory that Jack himself was the creation of a desperate crime writer. But I can tell you that the media sensationalism is played up quite a bit (in a role by Thrillpeddlers master Russell Blackwood as an editor for the '7th newspaper in San Francisco' (a city of six newspapers.) And I can tell you it's based on the very real case of one Theodore Durrant. The play mixes just the right amount of blood and comedy. From the cat burglar using the fear of the Ripper of San Francisco as cover for his crimes, to the prostitutes who simply refuse to believe handsome Theodore could possibly be a killer, to Moira Von Stepp singing about how she's "In love with a naughty, naughty man" and of course the newspaper editor constantly reminding you that the world is dangerous and the information he provides is all that stands between you certain doom! Pretty excellent stuff, and the lights-out thrills were great. This is actually the first time I've had a Shock Box (with a lady friend) for Shocktoberfest, and the extra features in there were...well, I won't spoil it, but they were pretty damn effective!

Shocktoberfest plays Thu-Sat until November 23rd, get your tickets here. And since I recognized new Thrillpeddler George Epsilanty from his work with Performers Under Stress, that also reminds me that P.U.S.'s new show SCAMORAMALAND is currently playing through Nov. 17th. I haven't seen it yet, but hope to before it closes. And I trust them to do good work.

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