Theater review: ‘The Splatter Play’ brings laughter and blood, but little horror

THERE WILL BE BLOOD: Actor Morgan Miller stars as Tina in the horror-comedy The Splatter Play. Photo by Jennifer Bennett of JenBenMedia

Halloween is just around the corner. If you’re looking for ways to celebrate early, consider a literal bloodbath at Magnetic Theatre. The Splatter Play is a horror-comedy written by first-time playwright Abby Auman, directed by Jessica Johnson and with original music by Zach Knox. The interactive premiere — which, as its title suggests, involves dousing the audience with fake blood — runs through Saturday, Oct. 21.

Upon arrival, audience members who purchased the $5 “splash zone bundle” receive a poncho, shoe covers and safety glasses. There are “safe-zone” seating options away from the blood and gore, but all attendees should beware: The launch range is somewhat unpredictable. Therefore, regardless of where you sit, don’t wear your favorite outfit to this production. 

The Splatter Play is hellbent on being intentionally bizarre. Viewers are immediately immersed in a wacky world where humor and absurdity seem to be the main objective. The story follows Tina (played by Morgan Miller), who grew up in a mysterious laboratory run by her genius mother (Dwight Chiles) and live-in assistant, Mr. Levinsky (Erin McCarson). The space is filled with advanced technology, curious inventions and evil lurking within every corridor. After her mother’s death, Tina puts the property on the market, hiring a Realtor (Melon Wedick) to find the perfect match for the unusual space. Unbeknownst to Tina, one of the many interested buyers is her mother’s nemesis, intent on demolishing the laboratory.   

While the play’s antics and absurdity are convivial features, the storyline is threadbare and sometimes incoherent. Most unfortunately, the element of mystery is short-lived, as the story’s villain is quickly revealed. With a little more patience, The Splatter Play could have been transformed into a whodunit, generating greater tension and anticipation throughout the production. Without it, the story’s ending falls flat. 

However, the sooner audiences submit to the play’s wackiness, the more enjoyable it becomes. Auman’s tone and vibe feel like a cross between the works of Mel Brooks and John Waters. This will not be everyone’s taste. The humor is crude, the gore comes in bucketsful and the dialogue is often outlandish. Keep in mind, these are actual selling points to us beautiful weirdos in the audience who are looking for a Rocky Horror Picture Show-inspired evening. The play also pays homage to the films Young Frankenstein (1974) and The Addams Family (1991). The latter, fans may recall, includes a memorable scene wherein Wednesday Addams concocts a similar stunt for a school play, soaking the audience in blood. 

Aside from these similarities, the play has its own unique features. Fanfare should go to the committed cast. If it were not for Miller’s viable and realistic performance as Tina, the play would not have worked. She is the only connection to reality. Miller’s choice to play her character this way is sagacious and rewarding.

Additionally, Ashleigh Goff is particularly hilarious as Mother Ironwood the nun. She nearly walks away with the entire show. Other perfectly peculiar performances include Chiles as Ghost Mom and Jason Phillips as Uncle Ivill. However, the eye-catching Daniel Moore as Hames Blonde is totally titillating. He knows how to work the audience with his charisma while still pushing the limits without going overboard. This takes unique talent. 

At Halloween, we crave both fun and horror as much as candy. This show unfortunately lacks the scare factor because the humor smothers it. However, The Splatter Play is outrageously fun and deserves to be a sleeper hit. Get your friends together and go belly laugh at the complete randomness onstage. Magnetic Theatre should also be praised for its commitment to original productions. Even though The Splatter Play is mostly a comedy, it’s fresh and full of risk. This is key to keeping theater evolving and alive in a world becoming scary enough on its own. 

What: The Splatter Play
Where: Magnetic Theatre, 375 Depot St.,
When: Through Saturday, Oct. 21, with performances Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 4 p.m. on Oct. 15. Tickets are $25 with an optional $5 splash zone bundle.


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About Kai Elijah Hamilton
Kai Elijah Hamilton was born and raised in Western North Carolina. A poet, screenwriter and playwright, he is also a published film and theater critic. Hamilton is a creative individual with a wide range of talents and interests. He is an Award Winning Actor (Tom in "The Glass Menagerie") and Director ("A Raisin In The Sun"). He previously served as Artistic Director at Hendersonville Little Theatre and has a B.A. in theater and film from Western Carolina University. In 2016, Hamilton's play "The Sleepwalker" won a spot in the first annual Asheville National 10-Minute Play Festival by NYS3. His play "Blackberry Winter" was a finalist in the elite Strawberry One-Act Festival in NYC winning Best Short Film/Video Diary. Hamilton is also the author of the full-length southern-gothic play "Dry Weather Wind" which has been called "Important. Relevant to the issues in today's time, and beautifully written..."

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