ALICE IN SLASHERLANDby Qui Nguyen (Regional Premiere)
Lakeside Community Theatre
Director/Scenic Design/Puppet Design – Benjamin Keegan Arnold
Assistant Director/Set Design – Rustin Rolen
Stage Manager – Cody Schultz
Lighting Design – Benjamin Keegan Arnold
Sound Design – Ashley Napoli & Benjamin Keegan Arnold
Costume & Hair Design - Hope Cox
Make-Up Design – Kristy Sims
Make-Up Assistant – Kristina Morrow
Property Design – Steven White
Fight Choreography – Pat Costa
Puppet Design – Emily McClendon Leekha
Lewis – Travis Kitchens
Margaret – McKenna Benson
Alice – Reanna Bell
Edgar – Shane Morgan
Tina – Molly Bower
Jacob – Matt Mariaux
Sheriff Dunwoody – Chris Wooley
Bonnie Tyler/Demon Crew – Jackie Kiefer
Demon Crew – Dustin Kinsella
Demon Crew – Maranda Kinsella
Reviewed Performance: 9/29/2017
Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
What a blood-spurting, Hell-raising, heart-pounding, front-row-of -the -audience soaking, wonderful mess!
The regional premiere of Qui Nguyen’s “Alice in Slasherland” is a no-holds-barred trip back to the world of 70’s and 80’s horror movies, specifically the Slasher genre (Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.) and the walking dead genre given to us by George Romero (“Night of the Living Dead”) and Sam Raimi (“The Evil Dead”, “The Evil Dead II”, and “Army of Darkness”). Mr. Nguyen’s gives us all the stereotypes of the genre in a nice big bowl of gory deliciousness and the cast assembled by Benjamin Keegan Arnold snacks on it with high-energy, ghoulish delight.
I have seen one slasher movie spoof before at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre (“Camp Death” by Kevin Fuld) and unless the cast is fully committed to the endeavor (which they were in this cited example) the whole thing could fall apart. In mining the humor from familiar material, the actors must have affection for it and, at the same time, be willing to take it to the edge of absurdity and toss it off to the stones below with giggling delight. The cast of “Alice in Slasherland” are willing to do this and more.
So, the story is simple, Kind of. The show opens with a filmed prequel of Alice’s (Reanna Bell) frantic attempt at escape from the hulking, bunny-masked, machete-wielding Jacob (Matt Mariaux). I thank the creators of this video in making it look as if it were being played from a cassette (complete with the ‘tracking’ indicator in the corner of the frame). From the film we go to a home where a drunken teen-aged costume party is in progress and then to the High School and then to a demon infested forest and then-well, it just goes on and on until we end up back at the house where the costume party took place for the now-familiar closing of the portal of Hell. As I said, it’s a simple story.
In the notes from the Director, Benjamin Keegan Arnold tells how his love of horror movies was passed to him from his brother Brandon and his late father Johnny (which resonated with me because my late father fostered my love of westerns). Mr. Arnold’s love is apparent throughout his direction of the play. And Mr. Nguyen has not given him an easy task. The play is broken up cinematically with shifts in time and with scenes that just kind of end. Without the cleaning up provided by film editing, Mr. Arnold must move his cast with lightning speed so that the energy doesn’t lag. For the most part he has succeeded and has given his audience a very good production.
Of course, this doesn’t happen without the actors and we have some capable ones to lead us on this journey through the macabre. Our obligatory virginal lead Lewis is played Travis Kitchens with a huge amount of energy and commitment to the character. We are first introduced to him in his video blog where he tells us his plans to drop the L-bomb on Margaret, his friend and the object of his growing affections. As if we were in any doubt that he is the hero of the story he goes to the costume party dressed as the super-hero Wolverine. Mr. Kitchens, thank you for your likability and energy. You put your whole being into the part and made the night very enjoyable. It doesn’t hurt that you have an uncanny resemblance to the young Bruce Campbell who played Ash in “The Evil Dead”. It was a job Well done.
McKenna Benson plays Margaret as a typical cheerleader who is unaware of Lewis’ feelings and is much more interested in getting to know the stud football player. Ms. Benson shows us the character’s growth from a girl who is more concerned about her wrecked car than the well-endowed demon that wrecked it to a person open to others who finally acknowledges Lewis’ affection and, at the same time valiantly battles demons with a tennis racket. Margaret also has an Evil Dead/The Exorcist possession moment that will send genuine tingles down your spine.
Our undead heroine of the play is portrayed with total commitment by Reanna Bell. Having not survived the film, which began the play (sorry about the spoiler), Alice is brought back to life to battle the forces of Hell that have accidentally been unleashed on the world (if anyone asks you to look in a mirror and a say the same phrase three times-don’t do it). Ms. Bell attacks the character with relish. One moment she is mutely ambling about, clinging to Lewis for protection and the next she is unleashing fighting skills on a par with Buffy the Vampire Slayer as she battles demons with her powers. There is no self-consciousness about this performance. It is total immersion and Ms. Bell is to be commended for it.
If Lewis is the obligatory virgin then we must have the obligatory drunken slut and Molly Brewer ably gives us Tina. Tina is the host of the party in the beginning and the instigator of the terrible events to follow. Ms. Brewer takes us from slut, to victim, to possessed being competently and effectively. We must also have the bumbling law enforcement person for this event and Chris Wooley plays Sheriff Dunwoody with donut chewing glee. There is also a wonderfully bizarre scene where the sheriff is possessed by a French accented demon (when revealed in it’s true form it is wearing a beret). Matt Mariaux plays the mass murderer Jacob with homicidal abandon. Mr. Mariaux also plays several other characters with the same amount of energy and sense of fun.
Alice, Lewis and Margaret would be lost without the assistance of the most powerful demon on the stage, the charismatic and foul talking Teddy Bear Edgar, a puppet manipulated and voiced with complete abandon by Shane Morgan. With a voice like Curtis Mayfield and a vocabulary like Redd Foxx, Edgar constantly offers encouragement to his fellow soldiers against evil, speaks words of love to his girl, Alice, and when push comes to shove transforms into his true form to protect those he loves. Mr. Morgan opens all the stops gives a really good performance.
I must also acknowledge the puppet designers Benjamin Keegan Arnold and Emily McClendon and the demon crew that brought them to life-Jackie Kiefer, Dustin Kinsella and Maranda Kinsella. The puppets provide so many of the thrills and laughs throughout the show that they must be acknowledged as part of the cast. Also, the minds behind the filmed sections of the play are to be applauded. They beautifully take us back to the 70’s and 80’s horror films-complete with video cassette playback visual ‘noise’. There is also a live music video which will never let listen to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” the same way again and a rap by Tina in second act that will have you in stitches.
Most of the shows I review I see on opening night so sometimes there are still some kinks to work out. Primary among these in almost all the plays is the problem of pace. There are a few times during “Alice in Slasherland” that the combination of slow scene changes and too much space between lines dampens both the comedy and the suspense of the play. In the worlds of comedy and horror speed and crispness are our friends. Specifically, in the climactic battle the slowness of the pace undermines the tension that should be inherent in the scene. Fortunately, further performances should iron those problems out.
Overall this is a very enjoyable show. I will warn people not to bring younger children because the language is more than a little raw. If they were to remove the f-word from the script it would easily shorten the show by twenty minutes. Also, if you sit in the front row, please take advantage of the plastic poncho sitting on your chair. If you like your comedy broad and your action bloody, this is the perfect show for you. It’s a mess but, man, it is a great mess.
Lakeside Community Theatre
8PM - September 29, 30, October 6, 7, 13
3Pm - October 14
6303 Main St.
The Colony, TX 75056
For information and reservations call (214) 801-4869
Or online at www.lctthecolony.com