The Blood Brothers present... RAW FEED
nytheatre.com review by Maria Micheles
October 6, 2012
The difference between a mediocre Halloween and a killer holiday is no larger than the Blood Brothers. If you want to hide from the shadows and pay top dollar for a Times Square haunted house, you're sure to have some good laughs and a cozy night. But if you prefer to court nightmares that revel in the dank, then Nosedive Production's (somewhat) annual horror anthology is the place.
This year's Raw Feed has the same structure as the company's five previous shows. A collection of short horror plays are guided by the ghoulish hands of the Blood Brothers, serial murderers with a taste for grotesque humor and self-awareness, played with great verve by directors Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer. What sets the series apart from other like-minded one-act festivals is that these plays never delve into the supernatural. When they birthed this fever dream in 2006, the Brothers initially favored the naturalistic horror style of turn of the century grand guignol, an influential genre that explored the amorality and depravity of human beings. Over the years, the stories have gone contemporary but maintained the same approach – with true stories that would have turned urban legend before the Internet, the Blood Brothers explore the shadows lurking not only in our imaginations, but also on our very city blocks.
The approach works marvelously for a number of reasons, most prominent of which is their love for the genre flourishes. Shadows and silence and gore and barely justified cruelty are the flavors of Blood Brothers guignol, and with an impressive team of accomplished writers and directors, the stories are well-crafted in addition to being remarkably creepy.
Sometimes the plays can be too well-crafted, and this year's installment suffers somewhat for that reason. The best Blood Brothers programs have employed stylistic and rhythmic diversity between the several shorts, suggesting that grotesquerie comes in all sizes and shapes. Such diversity also keeps an audience on its toes, unsure how long it might be before the next sick reveal. This year's program tells several resonantly disturbing tales – highlights include Nat Cassidy's Joy Junction, a ventriloquist nightmare, and Mac Rogers' Kittens in a Bag, a story where delusional celebrity is the real villain. But because there are only a few of the shorter pieces like the gore-heavy All of Me (in which mistress of dismemberment Stephanie Cox-Williams showcases her unique talent), and because too many of the pieces are over-written to the point of overshadowing the silence and style, the evening loses its visceral potential. The stories – not the dark truths behind them – become too much the focus, and excessive dialogue counters the otherwise lingering dread.
Of course, great horror is only partly about the experience, and mostly about the lingering nightmares. Days later, these stylized pictures of human illness persist where any storytelling questions fade away. The Blood Brothers have done it again, and if you feel deprived of quality nightmares, then feel free to pay them a visit. Rest assured, they're waiting.