Summerfest Daily Report - Wednesday, August 8
By Glenn Sumi
Film director Brian DePalma once said - and I'm paraphrasing - that film as a
medium is really good at depicting sex, horror and violence. (Remember, this is
the guy who made his name directing genre films that combined all three, such as
Carrie, Dressed To Kill and Body Double.)
He's right. Watching things blow up real good on the big screen is much more
entertaining than seeing them explode on TV. In horror and suspense, the
audience's perspective is limited to what the camera shows us - so we're always
wondering what's outside the frame. Is the axe-murderer in the corner? Behind
us? And it's hard not to feel like a voyeur while sitting in a dark movie house,
seemingly alone, watching someone reveal that first flash of shoulder...
Theatre is less naturalistic and so less conservative than film. You can't
blow things up convincingly onstage. But you can suggest an explosion with
lights and sound. As for sex, onstage nudity is more often a distraction and
embarrassment than a turn-on. Theatre seduces with words.
But horror and suspense? Here, theatre can make an impact, going back to the
great bloody tradition of Grand Guignol, where audiences would faint at the gore
onstage. Today, period thrillers still pack 'em in at the Shaw Festival.
Suspenseful summer stock shows like I'll Be Back Before Midnight have made their
authors rich. And think of the big Rocky Horror Show revival in New York.
So it's no surprise to see several horror shows at this year's SummerWorks,
including Billy And The Monsters and Sideshow Of The Damned. Here's a dissection
of both of them.
BILLY AND THE MONSTERS
PREMISE: A sullen high school kid (played by author Jon McCurley) gets
back at his conservative parents with the help of two European-sounding
FEAR FACTOR: It begins promisingly, with the appearance of the genuinely
creepy flashlight-wielding monsters in the aisles. But none of the characters -
including the monsters - are well defined, making their vengeance or their
bloody demises meaningless and therefore not frightening.
GORE FACTOR: Way too much, with no payoff. Limbs get hacked off and
thrown about, fake blood spurts all over the place. All of which makes you
think, 'Who's gonna clean all this up before the next show?'
FUN FACTOR: Minimal. It's a neat idea to have Billy's parents speak in
rhyming verse to separate them from him, and there's an obvious camp aspect to a
show in which the mom is played by a guy in drag and everyone's plugging
products. But there's no consistent tone to the show.
SIDESHOW OF THE DAMNED
PREMISE: Eric Woolfe's trilogy is an homage to those horror anthology
programs on TV, and/or those suggestive Tales From The Crypt-style horror
FEAR FACTOR: Pretty high, because director Michael Waller takes the
proceedings seriously. The characters are recognizable types, but their emotions
and motivations are clear. Woolfe's got the diction and language down pat, and
Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey's creepy Satie-inspired music gets under your
skin. Plus, Woolfe knows that the scariest things get to our subconscious fears:
the mystery of childbirth, humans transforming themselves into monsters.
GORE FACTOR: The stylish use of red ribbons to suggest blood - or in one
case a red sheet to evoke a sea of blood - is far more effective than any
attempt at recreating real blood.
FUN FACTOR: Director Waller knows that fear and fun go well together. You
laugh because you're scared. And of course, it's always satisfying to see greed
and selfishness punished.
All three pwyc readings begin at 7:30 pm.