note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
Watching Apollinaire Theatre Company’s production of Allison Moore’s one-act play, “Slasher,” for 90 minutes, it’s hard to know whether to laugh, cry, scream, or all of the above. In the same genre of a farcical crime or detective play, “Slasher” keeps theatergoers waiting for the climax, wondering if or when humor turns to horror.
Appropriately billed as a “horrifying comedy,” the play inspires visions of nightmarish acts of unspeakable gore. The mere title predicts frightening violence. It also explores production of low-budget slasher films. We sit, waiting for the ax, electric saw, drill, and hammer to fall, or knives to slice nubile young throats and bodies.
One doesn’t expect rapier sardonic wit, cartoonish clips of violence and feminist activism.
Co-Director Vincent Ularich and Apollinaire Artistic Director/Director Danielle Fauteux Jacques (portraying Frances McKinney), know precisely how to rattle our chains. Mother of two lovely daughters, Sheena, 21, (Jessica Martens) and teen-ager Hildy (Erin Eva Butcher), Frances wildly wheels around on a motorized scooter, gulping pills, screaming about lawyers who refuse to represent her in her discrimination court case. She fumes about how limited she is because of her chronic fatigue syndrome.
Amid Emily Ledger’s moody music and creepy sounds between-the-scenes, and Jacques and Ularich’s freaky lighting, “Slasher” opens on a darkly-lit stage, with a rape-murder scene occurring behind a hanging plastic tarp. Screams and shrieks pierce the air. Lying on the floor, unable to lift herself, Frances resembles the “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” TV commercials, spouting she had lain that way for three hours before the girls arrived home, They think Frances is a raving, drug-addicted poseur who refuses to help herself and bitterly spends her time complaining.
Playwright Moore plays mind games with us, levitating and lowering suspense and laughter levels, with this cast of misfit characters.
Sheena’s a pretty marketing major who works two jobs - one as a Hooter’s-type, scantily clad waitress - scraping together entry level pay to fund her tuition, car, and expenses to support herself, her mom and Hildy. Their father left them years ago.
Sheena becomes involved in a conversation between Marc Hunter (Casey Preston), a 37-year-old B-horror film producer, while he’s interviewing, not-bright 23-year-old, actor-filmmaker, Jody Joshi, (Joseph Kidawski). Calling Sheena “so in the moment,” Marc auditions Sheena, then offers her the part of the final victim in his horror movie, “Blood Bath”. The two negotiate a deal, in which he’ll pay her $15,000. Sheena and Jody are excited, Marc is anxious to get production underway after losing his investor, and Frances becomes maniacal, hysterical, after hearing Sheena’s “good news,” convinced that Sheena is degrading herself by acting in a movie that promotes violence and dominance over women. Frances is also embittered over history with Hunter, which Sheena dismisses offhandedly.
Frances becomes increasingly agitated, plotting to attack Hunter and stop him in his tracks - literally - despite her maladies. The ending is a real twister.
Besides learning the classic criminal profile of a sexually repressed slasher, theatergoers get a bird’s-eye view of how cheap horror movies are made, legitimately or otherwise.
The cast, including Kate Mock Elliott portraying dual roles as activist Cristi Garci and a news anchor, and Alexandra Marie Harrington as horror flick “victims,” Bridget, Marcy, Beth, and Madison, nicely draw the line between satire and suspense. Jacques and Martens are especially effective during their potent mother-daughter argument scenes, while Preston as a cheesy, obsessed filmmaker effectively spirals out of control.
BOX INFO:Written by Allison Moore, appearing now through Nov. 5 at Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 27, and Monday, Oct. 31, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 29, at 5 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are $25, seniors, $20; at the door, $30; student rush tickets an hour before the performance, $15. There’s a post-show reception with the actors after every performance in the Gallery. Call 617-887-2336 or visit www.apollinairetheatre.com.