The Blood Brothers Present... The Master of Horror

Adapting Stephen King has always been a problematic affair- for every successful movie adaptation ("Stand by Me", "The Shawshank Redemption"), there's a pretty bad one ("The Langoliers", "Christine"), and stage adaptations are almost unheard of since the notorious musicalization of Carrie.  Fortunately the new stage adaptations, presented by Nosedive Productions as The Blood Brothers Present... The Master of Horror, get it right, by focusing on the characters and engaging talented actors to bring them to life. The evening consists of three of King's short stories adapted (with permission from King) by different Nosedive writers - "Nona" by James Comtois, "Quitters, Inc." by Qui Nguyen, and "In The Deathroom" by Mac Rogers, as well as a spoken-word piece derived from King's foray into poetry, "Paranoid: A Chant". All the pieces eschew the supernatural in favor of showing the darker side of what human beings are capable of.

The Blood Brothers Present... The Master of HorrorThe plays are introduced by the titular Blood Brothers (Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer), along with Sister Blood (Rebecca Comtois), who perform an original piece by James Comtois called "The Last Waltz", which is derived from sections of Danse Macabre in which King discusses actual killers who have been inspired by his work; the Blood Siblings act them out with grisly delight.

First up of the adaptations is "Nona". In it, Loverboy (Jeremy Goren) reminisces to the audience about how, hitch-hiking in the snow after dropping out of college, he met a girl named Nona (Jessi Gotta), who became his lover and bloodthirsty muse. Goren switches from monologue to scene effortlessly. Gotta is a perfect haunted vision as Nona, as well as appearing in flashbacks as a high school inamorata. They're supported by Ben Trawick-Smith, Marc Landers, Christian Toth and Michael Criscuolo as a variety of unsuspecting souls whose fate is coming for them.

Next is "Quitters, Inc.". This piece has been adapted before, in the movie Cat's Eye (starring James Woods, as the two gentlemen behind me kept debating in whispers), and here is given a fine production with a few modern bits of references and slang thrown in to contemporize it. Richard Morrison (Michael Criscuolo) meets an old friend Jimmy (Christian Toth) who's looking fantastic and prosperous and says he owes it all to Quitters, Inc. So Morrison goes and meets Vic Donatti (Marc Landers) who begins the treatment, which involves Morrison's wife Cindy (Marsha Martinez). More comical than actually scary, it's still highly enjoyable. Landers is a hoot as Donatti, and Criscuolo is convincingly put-upon as Morrison.

The Blood Brothers Present... The Master of HorrorJessi Gotta takes the stage again in a one-woman tour-de-force, delivering "Paranoid: A Chant" as a spoken word with an appropriately fevered intensity. She's wonderfully insane.

The last piece of the evening is "In the Deathroom"- in an unnamed Latin country, Fletcher, an American journalist (Ben Trawick-Smith) is being electrically tortured by Heinz (Christian Toth), and interrogated by Escobar (Jeremy Goren) and Pilar (Marsha Martinez), watched over by soldier Ramon (Michael Criscuolo). The riveting plot is full of twists and turns, and all the actors get a chance to shine (especially Trawick-Smith and Toth here).

The plays are all produced with minimal props and set, which leaves the actors free to conjure up wonders. The only thing it appears was splurged on was the blood. There's plenty of blood (the first row is the splatter zone).

All the pieces are directed well by Pete Boisvert, except for "Nona", by Patrick Shearer (also good). Qui Nguyen's stage combat is up to his usual extraordinary standard. Leslie Hughes' makeup work is impressive. Ian W. Hill's lighting is haphazard; sometimes great, sometimes it seems as if the actors can't find their light.

The adapters and writers and actors here clearly care about what they're doing. It's a fun evening, if you like a little gore and a few chills for your Hallowe'en.

The Blood Brothers Present... The Master of Horror
Endtimes Underground @ the Gene Frankel Theatre
(24 Bond St. between Bowery and Lafayette)

October 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30-November 1 (Thursday through Saturday).

All shows are at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $18.
Subway: 6 to Bleeker; or V, D, F, B, to Broadway/Lafayette.
For tickets call 212-352-3101 or visit www.theatermania.com.

Photos by Aaron Epstein

  1. Jessi Gotta (left), Jeremy Goren and Marc Landers
  2. Rebecca Comtois (left), Marsha Martinez, and Pete Boisvert


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