By Nat Cassidy, Mariah MacCarthy and Mac Rogers
Directed by Pete Boisvert, Stephanie Cox-Williams and Patrick Shearer
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 11.1.14
The Brick Theater, 579 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn
by Amanda LaPergola on 10.26.14
Pete Boisvert, Kristen Vaughan, and Patrick Shearer in The Blood Brothers present...Bedlam Nightmares: EXECUTION DAY. Photo by Kent Meister.
BOTTOM LINE: An evening of terrifying tales and spurting arteries that is definitely not for children (won’t somebody think of the children?)
It’s Halloween, and we’re all in the mood for some good horror and generous blood splatter. But why go to a haunted house and spend all that time walking from jump scare to jump scare? Why not let your buttocks sit down and enjoy a nice pancaking while the terror comes to you?
The Blood Brothers Presents… series has been wetting the pants of indie theater audiences since 2006. Created by Pete Boisvert, Patrick Shearer and Stephanie Cox-Williams for Nosedive Productions, this perennial horror anthology has showcased the dark offerings of some of off off Broadway’s most talented playwrights. Nosedive shut down production in 2013, leaving the future of The Blood Brothers up in the air. Since February, Bedlam Nightmares has been presented in a series of late night offerings at The Brick as if it were a farewell tour. Of course, it was never The Blood Brothers style to simply fade quietly into the sunset. Any “goodbye” this series had planned would always require ponchos in the first two rows.
In the Bedlam Nightmares series, the brothers Blood (Boisvert and Shearer), former curators of the grisly and sadistic murderers themselves, are prisoners of the sinister psychiatric facility Hospital One. Under the merciless care of Doctor Queen (a wickedly fun Kristen Vaughan) the brothers encounter the hospital’s various inmates, described in the program as “the world’s deadliest, most perverse, or just most interesting criminals,” and their crimes are reenacted as small one-act plays. In this final installment, the brothers are due to be executed for the entertainment of the hospital’s most generous contributors (that’s you!)
EXECUTION DAY features short works by Nat Cassidy and Mariah MacCarthy. Cassidy’s “The Art of What You Want,” directed by Boisvert, is the most genuinely frightening of the evening’s offerings: a haunted house story with a ghastly twist featuring the strong ensemble of Michael Markham, Morgan Zipf-Meister and Lynn Berg. MacCarthy’s “Daddy’s Girl,” directed by Shearer, eschews the shocks and gore that make up much of the evening for a creepy, slow-boiling story about the straining relationship of a father (Tom Reid) and his teenage daughter (Jessica Luck). Reid’s paranoid parental figure is equal parts disturbing and pathetic and he leads the vignette to a heartbreaking conclusion. Cassidy’s other short work, “Joy Junction” (“as cannibalized by Mac Rogers,” notes the program, and directed by Cox-Williams) is a short, disturbing sketch about a Christian children’s TV host (Roger Nasser) and his disturbingly life-like marionette. Nasser’s onstage likeability effectively offsets the horror of this small tale and some well-chosen sound effects (designed by Shearer and executed by board operator Robyne C. Martinez) take the creep-factor over the edge.
As entertaining as the short plays are, the real meat of EXECUTION DAY is the lore of Hospital One itself. The hospital is presented as a sinister, not-quite-legal dumping ground for society’s rejects with Queen as its malevolent tormentor-goddess at the helm. A Troubadour (Cassidy) sings the tale of a small boy who delights in playing deadly pranks on the hospital’s patients, an Old-Timer (wonderfully weird Bob Laine) is all too eager to help in any way he can, and the head of Human Resources (Nasser) was once a patient himself. Most interesting of all is the patient known variously as Leslie and Sonia (Ivanna Cullinan), a broken soul whose only crime was running afoul of one of the hospital’s most wealthy patrons. Leslie/Sonia may be the only sympathetic figure in Hospital One, and Cullinan portrays her with an edgy vulnerability.
Then, there are the brothers themselves. Demonic in appearance and in action, the Blood Brothers have the rare luxury in theater to have years to develop as characters. Boisvert and Shearer have crafted iconic personas with a wonderful stage dynamic. Boisvert’s Brother is animalistic and id-driven, speaking in short phrases with a guttural growl. Shearer’s Brother, in contrast, has an air of sophistication (my viewing partner described the character as “James Spaderesque”). He is loquacious and urbane, making a banquet out of every word he proclaims (wonderfully written by Mac Rogers). It would be a shame to lose both of these gleefully amoral anthologists to the pulsing throws of electric death, but is that truly their fate? You will have to see the show to find out.
The Blood Brothers Present…Bedlam Nightmares: EXECUTION DAY is rated a hard “R.” The wonderful, gushing gore effects designed by Cox-Williams spurt high (those ponchos are there for a reason.) If you like your Halloween horror dark, blood-soaked, and moral-free, check yourself into Hospital One for a visit, and enjoy your stay… (spooky, maniacal laughter).
(The Blood Brothers Present…Bedlam Nightmares: EXECUTION DAY plays at The Brick, 579 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn through November 1, 2014. Performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at ovationtix.com.)