From the moment the lights go down, plunging the house into a deep darkness that lasts long enough to be unsettling, the audience knows it’s in for something unusual. Horror, of course, because that’s mentioned in the title of the show. But what they might not be expecting is the sheer, merry sadism, sexual savagery, and witty humor that go along with it.
The gleefully deranged Blood Brothers (Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer, who also direct) narrate the evening’s festivities, reminiscing about blood spilled and yet to be spilled. And spill it does, from slit throats, burnt skin, decapitations and mutilations of many kinds.
An Evening of Grand Guignol Horror is built around two short Grand Guignol plays from the early 20th century, The Final Kiss by Maurice Level and The Kiss of Blood by Jean Aragny and Francis Neilson. Both deal with revenge meted out on former lovers, one on a woman who disfigured her fiancé, the other on a man who may have murdered his wife. While the plays may seem a little musty and melodramatic, they are interesting and still rather creepy.
Surrounding these authentic Grand Guignol pieces are a series of short vignettes, filled with all the horror and gore of the originals, but made for a modern audience. Two of them, Lights Out and Blinded, are companion pieces which bookend the evening. Dealing with people who are being stalked and tortured by someone or something they can’t see, these scenes use a classic Grand Guignol theme, fear of the unseen ‘other,’ while using modern slasher-movie motifs. The third vignette is Vagina Dentata by James Comtois. Though short and containing no dialogue, this clever, gory, and amusing piece is one of the highlights of the show.
Directors Boisvert and Shearer, along with Stephanie Williams who directs Lights Out, do a marvelous job contrasting the two types of plays. The Grand Guignol plays, which could be overplayed in a mocking way, are treated seriously. The vignettes, however, wouldn’t work that way, and are instead played with a wink and a nod to an audience that is in on the joke.
The strong ensemble cast does well with both styles. In particular Boisvert and Shearer are wonderful as the homicidal Blood Brothers. Gavin Hoffman, as the doubting Professor Leduc in The Kiss of Blood, seems particularly well-suited to this style of theatre, as does Christopher Yustin, as the opium-addicted invalid Henri in The Final Kiss. Cat* Johnson and Desmond Dutcher both ooze sexuality and danger in Vagina Dentata.
There are not many opportunities to see well-done macabre theatre. Hopefully, the Blood Brothers will return, spreading blood and horror next Halloween season.
(The Blood Brothers present . . . An Evening of Grand Guignol Horror also features Melanie Adelman, Laurel Keane, Marc Landers, Leah Carrell, Anna Kull, Rebecca Comtois, and Brendan Farley.)
Makeup/Special Effects: 2
Copyright 2006 Byrne Harrison
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