31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 28: Silence! The Musical (Arts After Hours)

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source: artsafterhours.com

source: artsafterhours.com

How can a musical featuring a song called ‘If I Could Smell Your Cunt’ be so painfully tedious? And from especially an Arts After Hours production, a reliable staple of my last two Hallowe’ens, and yes I am drunk but I am so pissed off that this was such a terrible, awful, no-good disappointment of a Friday night out. And you know what’s worse? The fact that the players had such a pervasive energy that it felt rude not to acknowledge its potential to make a decent show better, if not for a cringe-driven exercise in overly-telegraphed humour that left the performers’ would-be-infectious efforts ring hollow.

Jesus. I’m sorry. But Silence! The Musical was worlds apart from Arts After Hours’ 2013 and 2015 offerings. I felt like I do when I am in a room in which everyone loves Lady Gaga and I do not. 2013’s Evil Dead: The Musical was a masterful homage, spoof and love letter to all things Raimi. 2015’s The Texas Chainsaw Musical was a hand-over-mouth ‘should i laugh at this?’ send-up of Ed Gein’s twisted, romantic leanings, plus sprinklings of its cinematic influencee, Leatherface.

But 2016’s production left I and others I spoke to feeling embarrassingly cheated. It resembled nothing of what I’d expected based on previous productions. The humour was obvious, low-brow fare, and when it wasn’t ‘avoiding’ lazy double entendres by asking fellow characters to refrain from making them, it relied solely on spoofing the film (imagine Scary Movie vs. Spaceballs) without any non-spoof humour to prop it up. The production never had a chance in standing up on its own.

No doubt that the actress who plays Clarice is well-equipped to dazzle on both stage and screen. But she is wasted in a show that demands that she extract her role’s only source of entertainment value from a copycat accent that takes a a Southern drawl and shits on it with an inconsistent speech impediment that gets old after five minutes. Hannibal himself is delightfully deadpan, and a  memorable Buffalo Bill gives it his admirable all, but it’s the background players that had me leak out the odd guffaw. The way they effortlessly turn from intro-singing moths to scurrying FBI agents, or background wanking and Tourette-cursing while Clarice did her best Christian Slater impression had me spitting out my beer. I’d happily watch a retelling from their point of view.

I feel like a dick for being this honest but I’m not that important of a human being, so fuck it for saying I couldn’t wait for it to end. Despite gleefully enjoying my last two Arts After Hours shows, I’d never had unreasonably high hopes for this one. But now I’m cautious as to what my next year will bring.

2/5

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 30: Texas Chainsaw Musical (Arts After Hours) (2015)

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source: artsafterhours.com

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!