Friday, October 19, 2007

PLAY: "Pulp"

Pulp, a new horror anthology by Nosedive Productions, isn't just right for the October season, it's exactly what the doctor ordered. According to that eviscerating doctor of the opening number, "Metaphor," some pain is necessary to satisfy the audience's desire for catharsis, but this well-assembled production is pretty good about cauterizing the weaker portions and the evening is mostly a delightfully grim success.

The play follows our hosts, the Blood Brothers (Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer), as they shuffle across the dimly lit stage, making sure the show goes on, whether they have to force it to perform or not. Clad in slick but funereal suits, with bald heads and faces as white as the gleam in their sinister smirks, the two lend cohesion to the play, framing devices straight out of classic comics like Tales from the Crypt or House of Mystery. Shearer even sounds like the Cryptkeeper, all glib narration and unmasked revelry in the twists and comeuppances that befall each character.

Speaking of twists, the three central pieces by Mac Rogers, Qui Nguyen, and James Comtois all deliver. Comtois's "Listening to Reason," the strongest of the three, introduces us to a homicidal maniac (although, as our host points out, fan, addict, or fiend is more appropriate) who is undone by the very thing he takes such pleasure in, and the denouement--an intimate moment of uncontrollable laughter from the cornered killer, played by Marc Landers--is one of the creepiest things within Pulp. Rogers's "Best Served Cold," a close second, succeeds by pandering to the inevitable twist: our narrator delights in reminding Brianne, a waitress being held hostage by the wronged Marybeth, that she only needs to stall for eight minutes before a cop will arrive. The suspense is driven by this persistent nagging, and Jessi Gotta and Anna Kull deliver tight performances as the waitress and revenger. Nguyen's piece, "Dead Things Kill Nicely," suffers from some unbalanced performances, particularly from Stephanie Cox-Williams, and lacks the momentum of the other plays, but by keeping it physically close (and with such attention to the sex appeal of pulp's omnipresent damsels in distress), it manages to convey the proper mood.

The other acts are short and incomplete vignettes, but they work as palate cleansers, and go with the collective atmosphere of Nosedive, in which playwrights, actors, and directors freely participate in everyone's plays, and everyone has a chance to stand out (like Brian Silliman, as the inept but always smiling Magician in "Something Up His Sleeve"). That spirit also lends Pulp a bevy of sight gags (beyond the always funny splatter of blood packets), and that comic timing, applied to suspense, is what helps transition the pulp story to the stage. Nosedive knows what they're doing, and Pulp goes down smooth.

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