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Audacious Artefacts: Parisian Grand Guignol 

Wednesday, Apr 29 2009
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As with just about any collection of short theater pieces, Thrillpeddlers' new sex-and-violence extravaganza is very much hit-and-miss — but at least this evening of one-acts gets much, much better as it goes along. Audacious Artefacts is a tribute to the Théâtre du Grand Guignol, the Parisian venue that specialized in deliriously lowbrow, exploitative shock fare from 1897 to 1962. In keeping with the Grand Guignol tradition, Thrillpeddlers presents four short plays — two horror tales and two sex farces — yoked together so that audiences find themselves torn between titillation and dread. Or, at least, that's the idea; in practice, the sex farces are more successful than the horror pieces. Best of all is the finale, a simple little romp called "The Discipline," which technically pre-dates Grand Guignol (it was written in 1788) and plays like a vignette out of a Laurence Sterne novel. It features two nuns lusting after the convent gardener, who ends up shtupping both of them in an outrageous shadow-puppet sex show. The piece climaxes, so to speak, with an ingenious, disorienting, lights-out phantasmagoric sequence featuring a giant floating penis that shoots glow-in-the-dark streamers toward a giant floating vagina. Hey, nobody ever went to the Grand Guignol for subtlety.

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Chris Jensen

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