Splatter Duo

Impact Theatre often has something stirring in its pizza parlor basement in the summertime, in between the company’s actual seasons. This time it’s a cinephile side project of a few Impact regulars under the moniker “p.d. and the bug” (an entity that’s also credited with directing the show).  Dreamed up by Sarah Coykendall, Mike Delaney and Cassie Rosenbrock, Splathouse Double Feature is a loose adaptation of two beloved old B-movies (or D-movies, really) from Fairway International Pictures: the 1963 thrill-killer exploitation flick The Sadist and Eegah, a 1962 flick in which a giant caveman meets some teenyboppers who just want to rock and roll. Mind you, these are greatly abbreviated adaptations—the whole show is only 80 minutes, including intermission.

Michael Garrett McDonald and Mike Delaney in The Sadist. Photo by Cheshire Isaacs.

Michael Garrett McDonald and Mike Delaney in The Sadist. Photo by Cheshire Isaacs.

But the show isn’t just reenacting these old movies onstage—it’s also recreating them on film. Every once in a while the action will shift from a live sequence to a filmed scene with the same actors, then back again.

Introducing the show, Rosenbrock counseled us to be prepared for all the joys of cult classics, such as the continuity errors, “the unpredictable plot, the unpredictable acting.” And certainly the production displays gleeful disregard for inconsistencies such as the same characters having different outfits and hairstyles in the filmed sequences (nicely directed by Edwin Fernando Gonzalez) than they do in the live show.

The same cast performs both stories, although Rosenbrock’s only in the first one. First up is The Sadist, in which a group of teachers have car trouble on their way to a baseball game and find themselves captives of a similarly stranded homicidal lunatic.  Michael Garrett McDonald is scary good (and good scary) as the giggling titular sadist, and Coykendall is amusingly depraved girlfriend, who doesn’t say much but leers and writhes, turned on by all the cruelty. Their wild, decadent dance sequence to Elton Motello’s “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” is particularly hilarious. Rosenbrock, Delaney and Joseph Mason are the upright, uptight citizens who have to figure out how to get through this situation without getting killed.

Coykendall and McDonald play the nice young couple, Roxy and Tom, who run into the caveman in Eegah, and a little bit of their creepiness from the other story carries over into this one, especially in the overly enthusiastic way Tom responds to Roxy’s dad’s little jokes. At some point it made me think that this might be how the psychotic lovers in The Sadist see themselves. (In fact, both of those roles were played by the same actors in the original movies, too: Arch Hall Jr. and Marilyn Manning.) Tom also lip-syncs the schmaltzy love songs from the movie, with some others thrown in for good measure, because the original Eegah wanted to get in on some of that Elvis-movie demographic as well as the chiller-diller crowd.

Delaney is appropriately cheesy as Roxy’s kindly but condescending scientist father with a penchant for malapropisms: “I don’t want to call this story of yours a lot of foolishousness.” But the real star of this show is Mason as the childlike caveman Eegah (a role that was the film debut of Richard Kiel, who later became famous as the metal-toothed goon Jaws in the Bond flicks), who can wring a lot of soulful nuance out of hitting you over the head with a stick.

There are a lot more film-only actors in Eegah than in The Sadist, where the only celluloid walk-on is Jimmy Snell’s friendly policeman. Most prominently, Nick Trengove and Maria Giere Marquis have one projected video scene as a squabbling young couple, while other Impact actors play assorted pool-partygoers.

Some of the transitions from film back to stage were on the sluggish side on opening night. There’s one running gag about fear of chains (replacing the snakes of the original movie The Sadist) that’s so random that it just seems like a non sequitur, an company in-joke that we aren’t in on. But overall the campy humor of the whole endeavor holds up well, lovingly mocking the original movies by playing them straight while making them even more ridiculous, if possible.

Splathouse Double Feature
Through August 9
Impact Theatre
La Val’s Subterranean
Euclid Avenue
Berkeley, CA

Show #59 of 2014, attended July 5.

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