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Of note

The artists formerly known as … The Asheville-based rock group last known as The Rugburners has just relaunched itself as The Licks. The band, largely inactive since Bele Chere, also recently announced plans to record a demo CD at Boogie Moon Studio in Fairview. For more information, visit www.licksplease.com.

Front-row reviews

What: Depravity Murder Rape Torture Haunting Insanity

Who: We Warned You Productions

Where: AREA:45 Theatre

When: Saturday, Jan. 12

“Doctor … this is weird,” The Janitor says, mere moments before he’s gutted with a blunt scalpel. His insides spray forth, covering the floor in thick red fluid. The Doctor laughs maniacally, kicking bits of meaty gore out of his way before slicing into his other victim, a chained naked man. As his second victim’s screams fill the air, the lights slowly fade out, leaving the room as dark as pitch and smelling of raw meat and black cherry Kool-Aid.

When the house lights come up for intermission, some theatergoers begin to wonder what they should do about their pants: During the liberation of his innards, The Janitor (Chad Oliphant) drenched the whole front row. The stage crew starts to mop up using a strong disinfectant, and the tiny space now reeks of cleaning fluid, an aroma fated to linger throughout the play’s entire second half.

As the crowd files out to get refreshments, the only consistent subject of conversation is the gut spewing of moments before — a true sucker punch to the expectations of this local-theater crowd.

Of course, this reaction wasn’t totally unforeseen.

After all, aside from the nudity, the ballsy cast and the surprisingly effective special effects, the play doesn’t offer much else to discuss. Contrary to what publicity fliers had proclaimed, the performance isn’t really a series of one-act plays but rather one of half-developed scenes that often contain only a hint of narrative device to sustain the outrageous action.

Take, for instance, the show’s final sketch, a piece written by Elliot Blatt that sets up this rather promising scenario: A working-class guy (Chad Oliphant again) takes a rich girl (played by an actress credited only as Bear) back to his apartment, and as things heat up, the girl starts getting a bit kinky. Once the man is rendered helpless, she begins, very unromantically, to torture him. First she taunts him. Next she smacks him. Then she guts him (her weapon of choice is a hook). And then … the end.

As a premise, it’s not bad — except we don’t really care why Oliphant is being subjected to a second disemboweling. We’re not given a reason to care. Granted, horror is not a medium known for its subtle portrayal of humanity — but in this case, the audience is offered so little that it’s hard to appreciate the scene as anything more than an exploration of special effects.

Though performances varied from actor to actor, the cast seemed uniformly fearless in its attempts to bring the limited scenes together. In particular, the actors in the untitled fourth scene (Bear, Emily Jolley, Jason Adams and Martin Snyder) showed particular chemistry, as well as delivering the best dialogue in the show, as when Jolley’s nightmare-ridden roommate snaps at Snyder’s character to leave her alone. “OK,” he responds in one of the show’s few believable moments. “I’m gonna go check on the food.”

As pure camp, the show has its high points. However, with little more than a decent concept, a devoted cast and a whole lot of fake blood, the play delivers less than it leaves to be desired.

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