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Slasher

a Atlanta Premiere
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Allison Moore

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 3583

SHOWING : May 20, 2010 - June 19, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

When Sheena McKinney is cast in the slasher flick filming in her tiny Texas town, it might just be her big break. After all, she’s young and buxom, and her character is the last girl standing. But accepting the role unwittingly unleashes Sheena’s hostile, pill-popping mother’s feminist rage on the low-budget production in a burst of pitch-black hilarity, fake blood and real violence. You’ll never look at a power drill the same way again! This raucous comedy was an audience favorite at the 2009 Humana Festival of New American Plays.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Freddie Ashley
Prop Master Elisabeth Cooper
Costume Designer Emily Gill
Scenic Designer Stephen Judd
Lighting Designer Mike Post
Sound Designer Rob Turner
Marc Hunter John Benzinger
Frances McKinney Shelly McCook
Christi Garcia, Others Elizabeth Neidel
Jody Joshi David Sterritt
Hildy McKinney Sarah Wallis
Sheena McKinney Annie York
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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The Unkind Cut
by Dedalus
Friday, June 18, 2010
3.0
You know the drill. Nubile ingénue finds herself on the wrong end of some supernatural whacko’s piercing toy. Gore ensues. Audience screams. Good times are had by all, including the actress playing the not-so-lively ingénue. Welcome to the world of slasher movies, a world given a supposed send-up in Allison Moore’s recent “Slasher,” currently on bloody view at Actor’s Express.

I say “supposed” because, to my weary eyes, this play came across as a pale copy of other, better pastiches, rip-offs, and homages, a toddler wannabe on a playground of big kids. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Even pale copies can have their share of thrills and giggles, and this offering has some.

Annie York is Sheena McKinney, a lithe and buxom waitress who negotiates herself into the lead “last girl standing” role in a low-budget slasher film. The pompous director (played with gore-slurping relish by John Benzinger) has a checkered past and is the object of a long-standing, ill-explained grudge held by Sheena’s wheelchair-bound mother (Shelly McCook). Toss in a younger sister who has less purpose in the plot than I would have liked (a winsomely compelling Sarah Wallis), a geeky fanboy production assistant who has more purpose in the plot than I would have liked (an irritating David Sterritt), and a plethora of thin caricatures all played by Elizabeth Neidel, and you have a cast with a few too many villains, a few too few victims, and way too few of the aforementioned thrills and giggles.

One of the biggest drawbacks here is the “been-there, seen-that” familiarity of the whole thing. The slasher genre has undergone “post-modern” deconstructions both good (the “Scream” franchise) and not-even-close-to-good (the “Scary Movie” franchise). The “nubile-girl-in-distress” trope was also turned on its head by Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” movie and series. We’re constantly being given retread after retread of the classics of the genre (“Halloween,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” even “Psycho”) to such an extent that, to be honest, there’s nothing left to parody or satirize, nothing left to honor with homage or pastiche.

Of course, if the play had been the promised laugh-fest, all of this would have been forgiven. In his director’s notes, Freddie Ashley describes laughing out loud the first time he read the script, and giggling non-stop through the 2009 Humana production. For some reason, these promised laughs failed to materialize for me. Yes, there were smiles at the grotesque exaggerations, smiles at the familiar caricatures, smiles at a moment or two of surprising wordplay, but few outright laughs. Too much of the humor relied on outsized performances, on recognition of horror-movie staples, on tacky “bad-movie” shortcuts. Too little of it relied on characters and dialogue.

It also didn’t help that the script needed several cramped playing areas that crowded on top of each other, that the set itself was deliberately cheesy and banal, and that too much action was blocked at floor-level out of sightlines of anyone not in the front row. It didn’t help that the premise and characters lacked any credibility or charisma.

And, it probably didn’t help that I’m just tired of writers who can’t show an ounce of affection for the genres they’re parodying. This script positively oozes disdain for the kind of movies it’s depicting, even goes out of its way to layer feminist critique that has become just as over-familiar and stereotyped as the movies it’s gunning for. It is, to be fair, critique that actually has merit when it’s not put in the mouth of a cardboard hypocrite who wants to “empower” all women other than her own daughters.

Still, even with all these reservations, I couldn’t help enjoying the climactic scene, when knives and chains and power drills and screams and stage blood combine in a nicely choreographed dance of not-quite death. Of course, it was unfortunately followed by a coda that was as tacky as it was predictable.

So, that’s the drill. If you’re only casually acquainted with slasher movies, or know them only by reputation, you may have a reasonably good time here. But, if you’re a horror fan who can’t wait for the next unkind cut-and-dice gorefest, you may find the whole thing to be a pain in the neck.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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A-Grade Cast, B-Grade Script
by playgoer
Sunday, May 23, 2010
3.5
Casting a "B" movie with top-rated talent still results in a "B" movie. That's pretty much the case with Allison Moore's "Slasher." The cheesy elements (including set, costumes, and props) outweigh the excellence of the cast. I'm sure the play reads as a funny series of bits, but some of the fun is lost in translation to the stage. The horror moments in Actor's Express' production are actually more effective than the broad comedy.

Shelly McCook plays pill-popping Frances McKinney in a loud, over-the-top performance. John Benzinger matches her in intensity, as a vain movie director whose back story isn't fully revealed. Annie York and Sarah Wallis do very nice work as Frances' daughters, both giving believable, sympathetic performances. David Sterritt is less memorable as Jody, the director's personal assistant, whose duties grow as they film the movie ("Blood Bath"). As for Elizabeth Neidel, well, she makes an impression in all the many wigs she wears (sometimes two at a time).

"Slasher" has a sketchy quality, both in the fact that certain portions of the show work as isolated sketches and in the abbreviated way the script builds to its conclusion. There's a palpable feeling that there should be more. The play almost has the feeling of a template for a movie, with gaps in those sections where a movie would flesh out the action.

"Always leave them wanting more" is a cliche in show biz, and "Slasher" certainly does that. Unfortunately, it's the "wanting more" you get when you're offered cheese and crackers after you've been promised a full meal. Small-town Texas crackers and cheesy production values are what Actor's Express is offering, in a staging that obscures its far-left and on-the-floor action for large portions of the audience. It's fun, but hardly memorable, and hardly a glorious send-off for Actor's Express' 2009/2010 season. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

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