I bloody love Arts After Hours! The Lynn, MA-based theatre company does not get enough credit. I went to see their 2013 offering Evil Dead: The Musical, honestly expecting nothing, and got one of the most delightfully bloody, humorous and heartfelt pieces of musical theatre I’ve ever experienced. This, for their 2015 Hallowe’en season (and 4th overall), comes a musical romantic comedy-drama based not on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, but of…Ed Gein himself.
Mother issues! Gratuitous violence! Fun with skin furniture and belt projects! Texas Chainsaw Musical has it all, and much, much gore! And, given its dirt-cheap ticket and tiny set, it’s exceedingly funnier, better-choreographed and cleverly-plotted than it needs to be. Bursting with characters, it does get a little crowded (madcap is an understatement), but there’s just enough room to rip through everyone’s stories with the utterly brilliant songs actually counting for something and driving the plot forward like a runaway chainsaw.
The core story – Ed’s relationships and interactions with a series of visitors, is the most interesting, and somehow bittersweet and adorable, largely in part due to the actor’s (fuck it, I’ll update when I find out the names) ability to Hiddleston-ise his role with the right amount of sympathy, and Ed’s mother (see previous fuckit), who I wished could have stayed in the show a bit longer.
Copious smatterings of fourth-wall humour had the audience reeling in fits of giggles, including a running gag that involved moving/slightly redressing a couch to make the miniscule set resemble a different character’s living room, or characters hamming up their train-ride-mimicking by bouncing up and down. The jokes come thick and fast in increasing levels of absurdity (a door-to-door street preacher with a life-sized mannequin that speaks in a dubbed, deep man’s voice) and disgustingness (a delightfully Looney Tunes-style evisceration involving, well….an unborn baby).
I was in the Splatter Zone, which was not an understatement. Blood literally rained down on me. Twice! Ponchos had been provided free of charge, and at least the second time it rained I remembered to put my hood up, but I could feel it trickling down my neck; one front-rower got her beer all bloody, but continued to drink it. My hair is still crunchy from the blood… Something I instantly regretted saying out loud and out of context, especially as my makeup for the evening was an express, first-time attempt at this awesome goriness. Though I was awesomely singled out to the audience by the show’s MC as someone who “literally ripped off her own face to be here”.
I’d compel you to go see it, but its last showing is tonight. I can’t wait to see what they have planned for 2016!