BWW Review: Grief Gets Bloody in Horror Comedy FEATHERS AND TEETH, at Artists Rep
Teenagers act crazy for many reasons. Sometimes it's because of hormones. Sometimes it's because they suspect their soon-to-be stepmom is actually a teufel (German word meaning "demon"). For Chris, the teenage girl at the center of Charise Castro Smith's bizarre, funny, and terrifically bloody FEATHERS AND TEETH, it's both of these things, compounded by grief over losing her mother.
FEATHERS AND TEETH is a weird play. Picture Little Shop of Horrors with mysterious beast creatures instead of a plant. Add in a bratty kid and an evil stepmother, and put the whole thing in the 1970s. But, for all of that weirdness, it spoke to me in a personal way. I, too, was once a bratty kid with a stepmother I suspected of being a creature of hell. And, although I grew up in the 80s, I'm pretty sure Megan Wilkerson lifted the set from my childhood home.
So, here's how FEATHERS AND TEETH goes down. Chris's mom, Ellie, died two months before the play opens of cancer. In that time, her father, Arthur, has already set up house with Carol, who was Ellie's nurse. This doesn't sit well at all with Chris.
One day, Arthur comes into the kitchen covered in blood after running some sort of feathered and toothed beast creature, which he's carrying in a stockpot. The creature is not of this world. Although we never see it, it seems quite disgusting. (It also makes really disgusting sounds, entertainingly performed live by voice artist and the show's assistant director Nelda Reyes.)
For the next 90 minutes, the tension between Chris, Arthur, and Carol spirals out of control, the creatures grow, and everything gets increasingly bloody. It's a fast and wild ride. But the play isn't just about the carnivorous beast creatures that live among us. It's about fear and grief and loss, and about how we deal with things that aren't what they seem.
Of the four, my hands-down favorite performance was from Rodríguez. His Hugo Schmidt is so charming and earnest! He's responsible for a lot of the laughs in the horror comedy. Pierce is also charming. Between Chris's tantrums and Carol's seductions, Arthur really doesn't stand a chance, and it's fun to watch him be constantly manipulated by the women in his life. Hennessy strikes the right balance between concerned mother figure and self-serving witch that you don't get the true measure of her until things really go haywire. And Olson is, well, a real brat.
I mentioned the set. It's perfect. A kitchen straight out of the 1970s. I'm sure that my family had everything in the kitchen at some point, like those tall plastic cups and all the Tupperware!
Overall, I enjoyed FEATHERS AND TEETH. It's bloody and campy and occasionally overdoes the shriek factor, but it's a fun show and completely different from anything else I've seen at Artists Rep.
FEATHERS AND TEETH runs through April 2. More info and tickets here.
Photo credit: Russell J. Young