Kiss of Blood
Oct. 15, 2010
Better than: Watching any horror movie on DVD
Thrillpeddlers lived up to their name Friday night, delivering a mix of gore, lust, terror, and comedy in three one-act plays - and collaborating in a fourth with a visiting troupe of bloodthirsty Brazilians.
The company's annual production, Shocktoberfest 2010: Kiss of Blood, contained ancient bondage devices, vengeful drag queens, severed body parts, revealing costumes, comedic song, an axe, a power drill, numerous knives, and blood - lots and lots of blood.
The title play originated in the 1920s' Theater of the Grand Guignol, a Parisian troupe whose aim was to shock and overwhelm the audience with graphic subject matter and props. The other two plays, Lips of the Damned and The Empress of Colma, are originals that pay homage to the concept. Two Thrillpeddlers actors joined members of Brazilian troupe Vigor Mortis - which also emulates the Grand Guignol - in The Forsaken Laboratory.
Despite a handful of slow stretches, slipped accents, and stuttered lines, the timing and delivery of the actors fluctuated between good and impeccable.
Nowhere was this more apparent than The Empress of Colma, which garnered the most laughs of the four plays. Three drag queens with varying degrees of baggage go at each other verbally in preparation for a beauty pageant in the City of the Dead. A dental-hygienist friend with access to Sodium Pentathol - a barbiturate that's sometimes called truth serum - unknowingly turns the spat physical (and lethal) by supplying them a new high.
Current empress Crystal (played by Shocktoberfest director and producer Russell Blackwood) lords her status over Patty (Eric Tyson Wertz) and Sunny (Birdie-Bob Watt). For example, after noticing some fabric stuffing coming out of Patty's brassiere, she barks, "Titty hankies are ssssooo second runner-up!" Crystal is hiding a big - and horrific - surprise involving her late sister, the discovery of which leads to more verbal combat as well as assaults with an iron, a mannequin's arm, and a knitting needle. Considering the multiple verbal claw marks rendered by the lovely ladies throughout the play, their gory ends came as no surprise. The audience seemed to almost cheer each one's horrific demise.
The same can't be said for the characters who die in Kiss of Blood. Although it had its comedic moments, the play delivered the most terror and surprise. This included a number of lights-out segments involving phosphorescent flying and dancing objects reminiscent of the "spook shows" that originated in the 1930s. Wertz was especially convincing as M. Joubert, a man tortured by an unexplained pain - as well as the terrible secret that's at its source.
A secret that gets accidentally discovered is the crux of Lips of the Damned. Wealthy collector Marcel (Flynn DeMarco) walks in on a threesome that includes his wife (Kara Emry), Andre (Daniel Bakken) - and a guillotine. The ad-hoc BDSM scene is replaced by a sequence of Marcel's sick-minded mental traps that ensure the demise of the errant lovers. Bakken and Emry were at their best here. The former garnered numerous laughs with the pratfalls of Andre, who heretofore had no knowledge of his mistress' dark proclivities. Emry shined during the verbal and physical exchange with Andre, forcing her hapless lover to confess imagined crimes so she could deliver his punishment - and her own pleasure.
Before introducing Vigor Mortis, Blackwood promised the audience it would be different than anything they'd seen that night. The Forsaken Laboratory didn't disappoint. The Brazilian troupe has made a feature-length motion picture called Morgue Story, and its stage production shows its cinematic leanings. Laboratory had the feel of Eraserhead, elements borrowed from Alien, and the score of Goldfinger. The actors relied almost solely on movement, action, and props, and the few spoken lines - delivered in Portuguese and Latin - still hit their target squarely.
More gore: Vigor Mortis will appear with Thrillpeddlers six more times before Kiss of Blood's final performance. According to the troupe's PR agent, The Forsaken Laboratory will play Oct. 21-22 as well as Oct. 28-31.
Gory story: Morgue Story is scheduled to play at the Vortex Room on Wednesday, Oct. 27.