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Shocktoberfest 16: Curse of the Cobra

Other Curses Should be This Much Fun

Shocktoberfest_16.4Why would Thrillpeddlers offer up six weeks of “Shocktoberfest 16: Curse of the Cobra” at San Francisco’s Hypnodrome? Simply because fifteen times before, the formula has been successful in delighting audiences who choose to step into the macabre.

Producer/director Russell Blackwood has been one of the few and great contemporary practitioners of Grand Guignol theater. He and his artistic associates deftly stir a brew of horror, gore, and sex, adding a generous measure of campy humor to tickle the Halloween-season spine. The evening’s menu includes five courses, all world premieres written by Thrillpeddlers cadre – an appetizer, followed by a palate cleanser, then two entrees. Finally, there is a dessert in total darkness, save luminous figures hovering about. It all makes for a tasty treat.

The first of the two main courses is “The Model House” by Rob Keefe, directed by Blackwood. It takes place in the post World War II era of new suburban subdivisions and bomb shelters and all the associated mentalities. In 1948, Roy, played by David Bicha, is a former sergeant in the Marines, who has begun developing a subdivision. In the act following, it’s 1958, and the homes have revealed shoddy construction and health hazards that confront Roy.

Against this backdrop, Roy is having incestuous relations with his teenage daughter, Heidi, played hilariously by a decidedly not female, decidedly not young, Birdie-Bob Watt. Delusionally, Roy envisions son Rusty becoming a macho man and his successor in the business, but he is blind to the clues that Rusty has a long-running gay relationship. It’s probably not too revealing to say that there will be unmentioned body parts severed and blood let (with lots of laughs), but that’s enough for the plot.

The other larger piece is “The Revenge of the Son of Cobra Woman”, written by Scrumbly Koldewyn, and directed by Noah Haydon, who also plays Cobra Woman. The script is a bit loose – a patchwork pastiche, but we’re not expecting great literature. While the other plays in the program have naturalistic characters and settings, this one tends toward the bizarre. The opening is a spot-on soliloquy delivered by Damien Chacona in the manner of the Sam Spade narrator in “Play it Again, Sam”. He then has a skit with Earl Alfred Paus, who delights as a cute, affectionate puppy, but despite the animal charm, this one is definitely not suitable for the kids.Shocktoberfest 16.1

The action proceeds when the puppy is kidnapped and spirited off to the tropical Cobra Island, with the man in hot pursuit. Cobra Island is replete with players in garish costumes with performances by cobra-girl dancing choristers and by a singing animal band. Don’t ask me why. It’s enough to say that is was in good fun.

For such a small house, the tech design deserves recognition for its excellence. Thrillpeddlers veterans sound and light designer, Chris Paulina, and effects designer, Nicholas Torre, lead the pack, but there are many other contributors including the team behind the costumes. Scrumbly Koldewyn is involved with all aspects of the music in the program, which includes composing fitting songs.

Even if this genre is not your daily dose, it is a worthy evening of blood chilling, gender bending pleasure for the open minded and adventurous. “Shocktoberfest 16: Curse of the Cobra”, produced by Thrillpeddlers, continues at the Hypnodrome in San Francisco through November 21.

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