Bloodsong of Love
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
April 10, 2010
Joe Iconis is the best musical theatre writer that the public has never heard of. But, if you're one of the people who have heard of him, you probably agree with my statement. He writes smart, hummable music and has a talented posse of actors who do his stuff called the Family.
The Family—along with Iconis's music and script—are the stars of Bloodsong of Love, the Rock 'N' Roll Spaghetti Western, a rollicking presentation by Ars Nova. It is directed by frequent Iconis collaborator John Simpkins.
The plot can be summed up in the three-line song of our hero, known only as The Musician:
Gonna find the bastard
Get my woman back
And be with her again beneath the setting sun.
The bastard is Lo Cocodrilo, a kazoo-playing fiend who captured the Musician's wife Violetta and then sent him to jail for three years. The Musician is released, and, with the help of Banana (the Sancho Panza-like sidekick), sets out to get Violetta back. It helps that the song he wrote for Violetta, the bloodsong of love of the title, kills those without strong hearts.
It is the melodramatic violence, spurting blood, Wild West setting, and a few pseudo-Mexican characters that qualifies Bloodsong to be a Spaghetti Western (which were classified by those characteristics, as well as an Italian and Spanish production team.)
The cast couldn't be better, and very fine, enthusiastic performances are drawn from the Family members—the huge voiced Katrina Rose Dideriksen (as Whore in Boots), Jeremy Morse (outrageously funny as Lo Cocodrilo), MK Lawson (as Violetta), stoic Eric William Morris (as the Musician), Lance Rubin (also outrageously funny as Banana), and the soulful Jason "Sweet Tooth" Williams as the Storyteller.
The set, designed by Michael Schwelkardt, makes great use of the tiny space (and even extends just a bit into the audience). Perhaps the cleverest part, which plays into an ingenious sight gag, involves the use of a treadmill.
Iconis's score is just as good as that of Things to Ruin, and I've been humming one of the songs for days. The script could use a little bit of cutting; the second act feels too long.
And there is a lot of blood. In fact, in Simpkins's staging, there's enough spurting blood to rival a Quentin Tarantino film or a Martin McDonagh play. There's a reason why the first few rows get plastic bag ponchos. It's better if you're not squeamish. Just a warning.