Photo/Peter James Zielinski
There's a certain bartender in Joe Iconis's hip new "rock 'n' roll spaghetti Western" Bloodsong of Love who neatly sums up the show. You see, this bartender only has one eye, and it's throwing off his depth perception and range of vision. But he's aware of what some might call his shortcomings, so he compensates by simply pouring whiskey until someone moves a shot glass in range; later, he doesn't so much as shoot someone as he flat out blows them away (blood splattering over a plastic-covered front row). Done out of necessity, it doesn't feel like overkill, which is how Iconis gets away with the majority of his over-the-top characters and dialogue. Moreover, such an exaggerated appearance--swagger, if you will--is deceiving. Iconis's music has range, mashing up harsh lyrics with sweet romances ("Covered in the blood of another/I wish it were yours") and high-pitched hilarity with dangerous words ("It's not the size of the dog in the fight/It's the size of the dick on the dog in the fight"). Yes, pardner, there's even sincerity in these here parts, too.
Fans of Tarantino and Vampire Cowboy Theater will feel perfectly at home with Bloodsong of Love, for like them, Iconis manages to create something that is both an homage and parody of the western genre ("Gonna find the bastard/get my woman back"). Our hero, The Musician (Eric William Morris) could come right out of Desperado, except that his guitar doesn't shoot bullets--it just plays literally killer music. His slapsticky sidekick Banana (Lance Rubin), on the other hand, follows the code of honor, but really nothing else: he does make for an excellent Panzo-like character, cowering in a corner with his tambourine during the fight scenes, or gyrating across the stage during the musical numbers like a life-sized puppet, every limb moving in a different direction. These two are well-met by the love interest, Santa Violetta (MK Lawson), who clarifies, in Iconis's self-aware style, that she's not the coy coquette. (A fishmonger's daughter who likes to wear angel wings, she says this bit while gutting a fish and showering in its viscera.) And of course, they're outdone by the villain, Lo Cocodrilo (the excellent Jeremy Morse), a rootin', kazoo-tootin' Man In Black who more than compensates for his squeaky voice by killing everyone around him. In a particularly witty scene, Cocodrilo warns his henchman to never enter without knocking three times--then tricks him into doing exactly that.
Bloodsong of Love goes for style over subtlety or substance, and these choices--along with the whip-cracking direction of John Simpkins--enhance the comedic effect of the show. A small treadmill buried in the stage allows our hero to do that Signature Walk that Westerns are known for; characters like Whore in Boots (Katrina Rose Dideriksen) are actually elevated beyond cliche through their devotion to their archetype. Even the Narrator acquits himself well, though you can tell Jason "SweetTooth" Williams gets more of a kick out of doubling as the more overtly comic characters in the play. After all, the telling of the story isn't the interesting part: it's the way in which the story is told. So bring on the blood, the songs, and the love; keep it simple and make it catchy. The only thing missing from this cartoon musical is Yosemite Sam, but to be fair, it has a dream sequence inspired by licking a bullfrog's ass, so let's trust that Iconis knows what he is doing.