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Shocktoberfest!! 2009: Torture Garden 

Wednesday, Oct 28 2009
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If you see only one show at the Hypnodrome this fall, see Pearls over Shanghai. Thrillpeddlers' deliriously camped-out tribute to San Francisco's very own Cockettes delivers more madcap invention in two hours than most theater companies manage in an entire season. It's surprising, then, that Shocktoberfest!! 2009: Torture Garden — currently showing in repertory alongside Pearls — is so much less successful, despite featuring almost the same cast. The show follows a formula that should be familiar to Thrillpeddlers fans: two short Grand Guignol–style plays, each offering up a little kick of the lascivious and the macabre. In this case, however, even the significant bloodletting can't make up for the relative tedium of the material. We get too much wooden dialogue and not nearly enough gut-churning moments of, say, ritual disembowelment or forced amputation. That said, the show does feature some strong work from the Thrillpeddlers ensemble, particularly Adeola Role as a femme fatale who seems to have embraced political assassination as some kind of fetish. But Torture Garden isn't the real story here: that would be Pearls over Shanghai, recently extended until Jan. 1. To miss it would be to miss a show that's outrageously San Francisco — and outrageously good.

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Chris Jensen

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