Monkeys stole my girlfriend!

Evil Hellcat and Other Lurid Tales

By James Comtois
Nosedive productions
78th Street Theatre Lab
236 W. 78th St. (212/696-7342)
Equity showcase (closes Sept. 27)
Review by Charles Battersby

If there's anything that Avenue Q has proven, it's that theatre needs more puppets. Nosedive Productions has not only produced a show with puppets, but also monkeys. Monkey puppets, in fact. It's hard to go wrong with monkey puppets.

The unfortunate thing about Evil Hellcat and Other Lurid Tales is that it's composed of three very short plays (total running time of an hour), and only one of them has monkey puppets in it. Although the two monkey-less plays are still perfectly serviceable, the monkey puppets were undoubtedly the highlight of the evening.

The trilogy started off (sans monkey puppets) with The Attempt, a restaurant sketch where Andy (Brian Silliman) tries to have an intelligent conversation with his mistress, Meredith (Katharine Clark Gray). Although they both blather on about 19th-century Russian history and Nietzsche, Andy finds himself humorously unable to say anything meaningful.

A second restaurant sketch, Jiffy Squid, gave the audience the monkey puppets they so desperately craved. A pair of dining simians, Abba and Dabba (Brian Silliman and Dennis Hurley), engage in an existential debate, stopping occasionally to improvise and interact with the audience. When Abba tries to show Dabba how easy it is to talk to women, Abba picksa pretty girl in the audience and flirts with her (heedless of the fact that she might be a theatre reviewer's girlfriend...). The girlfriend-stealing primates (designed by John Walsh) also continued the evening's theme of quoting Nietzsche.

The trilogy's final, and longest, play was the eponymous Evil Hellcat and the Liquid Lunch. Once again playwright James Comtois tackles the existential, when Quota Jim (Don C. Makowski) is hired as Hell's token Asian screenwriter. Vampire Lula (Melanie Adelman) and Zombie Tom (Monkey puppeteer Denis Hurley) arere a pair of undead film industry hotshots in charge of a pack of Succubi/Muses who try to suck Quota Jim dry.

With their short running times, the first two plays (directed by Patrick Shearer) came across more like skits from a sketch comedy show than as one-acts. The simple premises kept Comtois from delving too deeply into the existential themes he touched upon. Silliman proved more entertaining as a monkey than as a human, with Dennis Hurley complementing him well as the other monkey.

The third play, Hellcat..., was the evening's weak point. Directed by Pete Boisvert for maximum camp, the play's comic potential was stifled. The evil vampiress came across as more of a drag queen than a creature of the night, and the zombie looked like an undead Ken Doll. This effect was partially due to Agata Oleksiak's costumes (what kind of Zombie wears a pink satin tuxedo?). The piece was still entertaining, though particularly when Zombie Tom's head was ripped open and his brain was eaten right on stage (courtesy of a make-up effect and rigged wig).

Hellcat.... isn't the finest hour of theatre in NYC, but it has monkey puppets and brain eating. If only it would lead to Abba and Dabba's getting their own play.

(Also featuring Cat Johnson.)

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby