The Blood Brothers present…Freaks from the Morgue
nytheatre.com review by Michael Mraz
July 3, 2011
While there are many genres that film and theatre have shared throughout their history, there are a few that have never fully made the transition one way or the other. Horror is one of these; while an immensely popular, profitable film genre, it generally doesn't pop up in theatre all that often. Horror films are defined by their music, the gore, and a kind of tension that lends itself to film and is difficult to capture in a live setting. However, more and more Indie theatre companies have been trying their hand at putting horror on the stage (e.g., classics-turned-zombie-gore-fests, like Twelfth Night of the Living Dead). The latest show to take on the challenge is Nosedive Productions' The Blood Brothers present…Freaks from the Morgue.
Freaks from the Morgue is a series of 7 bloody tales ranging from the gory to the creepy psychological. Written by Stephanie Cox-Williams, Brian Silliman, Crystal Skillman, James Comtois, and Mac Rogers, each piece is performed by a hardworking crew of performers, all of whom appear in multiple vignettes.
"Bad Samaritan" is the story of the murder of a man by two strangers he was trying to help, as told by his widow (a well-delivered, nuanced monologue by performer Ingrid Nordstrom). While it wasn't the most gripping piece of the evening, it did feature some fun, onstage limb-removals, a severed head, and some well-place geysers of blood.
"Hiccup," one of the highlights of the night, features the tale of a teenage girl (played by a maniacally fun Leah Carrell) who becomes a media sensation because of a case of hiccups that just won't stop and the murderous deeds the crazed teen is willing to perform to get the attention back when the hiccups finally stop. The vignette, written by Brian Silliman, is a nice blend of absurd humor and creepiness.
Another monologue piece , "Daddy's Bad Medicine," is the story of a drugged-out father attacking his daughter. Recounted by the daughter, she begins the monologue covered head to toe by sunglasses, gloves, and a shawl and strips away pieces as she goes, revealing the chronology of her gruesome injuries. John Hurley's simple, quiet direction of the piece perfectly highlights each revelation.
Mac Rogers's "Final Girl" is the strongest piece of the night, as a girl searches for her missing meth-addict sister and stumbles onto a gruesome serial-killing ring, claiming the lives of many addicts and vagrants in her town. Rogers cleverly and skillfully plays on the horror movie convention of one final girl being alive in the end to defeat the strong male villain but reminds us that it may not necessarily be the girl that we expect to survive.
"Evening Lullaby" starts with the foundation of a creepy stalker molesting a young girl in the night after her mother puts her to bed. However, while the premise is conventional, the ending is anything but.
"Nest" is the story of a killer who murders a family and takes their 13-year-old girl prisoner. While Collin McConnell gives a suitably creepy performance as the kidnapper/killer, "Nest" never seems to fully realize its theme of what a prisoner must do to survive a violent and sexually abusive captivity.
The final vignette, "Otty," is the account by an LAPD officer of a domestic violence call gone terribly wrong. Though the premise of a woman who's lost her mind and now believes everyone around her has been possessed by Satan is interesting, "Otty" doesn't quite hit its mark, partly because the actors playing the LAPD officers never quite seem like believable cops.
The seven stories are framed by short introduction scenes from the Blood Brothers, two hulking, bald figures with ghostly white skin and reddened eyes, our hosts for the evening (played brilliantly by Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer, who also directed most of the pieces). These "frame scenes," penned sharply by Mac Rogers, emphasize the importance of stories; one brother elegantly sets up each "ripped from the headlines" vignette, while the other brother shuffles about and growls excitedly in one-word phrases about blood, death, and eyeball sockets and everything else fun about horror. These short introductions are perfectly balanced with thoughtfulness, creepiness, and dark humor and, in the end, serve to hold the slightly uneven set of stories rather well.
Freaks from the Morgue is never short on blood and gore (a credit to makeup designer Melissa Roth) and that, in itself, is enjoyable. However, it never quite succeeds in being truly frightening. It's bloody and funny, and at some points very disturbing. It's possible it's because the stories, with the exception of "Final Girl," never really achieve an emotional arc. They come across as sketches with a "horrific" punch-line, but don't quite realize the themes they dabble in. However, while Blood Brothers Presents…Freaks to the Morgue doesn't fully succeed in bringing the horror genre to the stage, it certainly knows its audience. There wasn't one person in the house of the Kraine Theatre who wasn't reveling in the blood-fest.