BWW Review: ALICE IN SLASHERLAND at Lakeside Community Theatre
Friday September 29th, North Texas received its first brief taste of autumn with a negligible drop in temperature. The almost chilly 75 degree evening air was tinged with thoughts of leaves, lattes, and the sense that All Hallows Eve is drawing near. As a child, fewer things would effectively solidify the excitement for the impending holiday like a classic, poorly-shot, B-rated horror flick. If you're interested in experiencing a live presentation worthy of the small screen thrillers, look no further than the current stage production of Alice in Slasherland performed at Lakeside Community Theatre in The Colony.
LCT opened the relatively new work, Alice in Slasherland written by Qui Nguyen, this weekend to a packed house. Tucked away off the newly expanded Main Street in The Colony, this budding theatre greets audiences warmly in their freshly renovated lobby, complete with complimentary wine. Audiences are given a glimpse as to what's in store for this particular play when front row patrons are issued rain ponchos and warnings that they are seated in the "splash zone." A director's note in the program makes a point to state that this genre of horror is "made by a group of people who enjoy the schlocky goofiness of the Evil Dead franchise."
The story of sweet Alice is one that's been told many times before: set twenty years ago, we see the teenage ingenue (in an unnecessarily short pair of shorts and a mid-drift baring crop top) is harassed by a masked assailant while traipsing through the local cemetery. She ducks, dodges, and careens through town hounded by this slow moving, nevertheless persistent, adversary. In the end, she perishes amid blood-curdling screams in a wave of bloodshed. This foreword is revealed to the audience in the style of a pre-show montage video on projector screen, masterfully edited to the mimic the aesthetic of the 1983 cult classic, Sleepaway Camp.
The live show begins with the frantic entrance of young Alice, played perfectly by Reanna Bell. Bell bursts into the black box immersed in shadow, lit intermittently by her own wavering flashlight. Her masked marauder pursues her through the space just on the periphery of the audience. Director Benjamin Keegan Arnold also boasts the credit of lighting designer for this piece, and as such takes cues from haunted houses by utilizing drop spots to deftly reveal and conceal the murderer until he is right on top of his victim. This effectively draws in the audience and heightens the level of suspense in the room. But while the scene is inherently menacing, the script for Alice is deliberately kitschy. To amplify this factor, Arnold plays into the murder scenes with a whimsical soundtrack and streams of fake "blood" sprayed from the victims into the audience. (Don't fret, it is actually just water and no clothes will be harmed in the viewing of this production.)
Once the stage is set with Alice's death, the story progresses to present day where the other main characters are introduced at a costume party. Lewis, played by actor Travis Kitchens, is equal parts nerd and boy-next-door. Wholesome and handsome, Kitchens banks on solid comedic timing and really carries the show well with the quintessential character arc of boy gets girl. Margaret, played by McKenna Benson, is the busty, blonde, cheerleading love interest of Lewis. At the party, Lewis brings his crush Margaret but eventually loses her to the handsome jock. After which, Lewis is pursued by the popular party host Tina, played by Molly Bower. Tina coerces Lewis into playing a kids slumber party game where you summon the Devil by calling him into a mirror. Lewis scoffs at the childish nature of the game, but relents and unwittingly unleashes Hell onto earth as well as raising Alice from her grave.
Alice's reintroduction as a zombified demon is played remarkably by Bell. Her embodiment of the demon is shockingly afflictive in all the right ways. Alice and Lewis' story lines collide as Lewis is walking home, dejected about losing the girl, and runs into a mugger. Alice sees Lewis being attacked, snaps, and goes for the jugular of the goon. Lewis, though shaken by the encounter, is somewhat endeared to his savior. Meanwhile, Margaret has made friends with Alice's cohort: a resurrected demon named Edgar, hilariously voiced by Shane Morgan. Edgar is an actual teddy bear, and while the puppet mechanism in the show itself is not terribly inventive, the utilization of his vulgar and combative character in the scenes is hysterical. Five days after they've been summoned, Edgar and Alice unite along with Lewis and Margaret at the high school where they find their world is being quickly overrun by countless demonic beings.
On the whole, this show is deliciously self-indulgent. The lead characters all solidly engage the audience throughout the evening. Mariaux's ability to scene steal as cameo roles and meld back into the demon entity is commendable, and his slam-dance, murder ballad reminiscent of The Warehouse scene in Footloose is riotous. Kitchen's is a beautiful mess and his winsome heart believably totes the plot, while Bell's arc from evil to good is simple yet well identified. Even Benson, who has possibly the most predictable role as Margaret, becomes stronger throughout the evening and hits her stride in act two battling her own demons. Arnold smartly utilizes the projector screen throughout the production to keep the plot moving with clarity as the script tends to bounce around through years and days arbitrarily.
Perhaps the only few missteps in the show are on the sides of the supporting cast. Slasherland's script balances on that dangerous line of gleefully campy and just plain bad. Actors have to be careful to play up the camp factor without teetering over that edge. Unfortunately a few scenes fell a bit flat, one in particular with Molly Bower and Chris Wooley as tertiary demons sapped the momentum. This was due in part to the awkward, bulbous intestinal costumes they were sporting from designer Hope Cox. Cox nailed the rest of her designs, but failed to achieve her vision with these particular pieces. Wooley also struggled to hold attention as donut-obsessed Sheriff Dunwoody; his bits were clever in conception, but lacked energy in execution and will hopefully gain momentum during the rest of the run.
LCT's board did themselves a huge favor putting this show in their season-not only is it rarely done, but the style and stage requirements were a perfect fit for their venue. If you're looking for a frivolous, adult fright-night out (for the love of all that is holy, PLEASE don't bring the children! This show is for audiences that are mature in age, if not necessarily in mind.) then be certain to check out Alice in Slasherland at LCT. Their remaining performances are October 6th, 7th, and 13th at 8pm and October 14th at 3pm. Tickets can be purchased through www.lctthecolony.com.