Malice in Wonderland

If you're looking for an interesting Halloween evening, consider starting off the ghoulish night with a trek into the bowels of Houston's warehouse district. Infernal Bridegroom Productions has put together yet another very strange production. Even better, the vagabond theater troupe has found a wasteland space in which to present Mac Wellman's Harm's Way. Behind the Last Concert Cafe, on the sandy ground right beside the freeway, the actors go through the absurd motions of this postmodern treatise on the ancient question: Just what exactly are the boundaries of art?

Director Greg Dean has found the perfect spot to ponder this question. The boundaries of the "theater" are liquid at best. Cars whiz by; kids on the other side of the fence giggle and even yell out an opinion occasionally. But the actors carry on. And all the outside commotion actually reinforces the violence on stage (just about everyone gets shot).

Mom shoots her son because he won't eat his sandwich; vigilante Santouche shoots Mom because he's outraged; then he shoots a gravedigger, a freak-show director, and last his lovely lady friend, whom he's ironically labeled Isle of Mercy.

The characters question "old-fashioned ethical humanistic notions" and how meaning is shaped.

"I don't understand your meaning," says one.
"How would you," says another, "if I hadn't explained my meaning to you?"
Santouche finds the Church of the Christ Fornicators, where "you can get saved and laid at the same time."

And two "Weird Little Girls" skip through the play in flouncy, faded pink dresses, eyes rimmed in dark shadows. Their favorite game involves destroying furniture, which they do gleefully on stage between scenes.

Troy Schulze brings terrific energy to the stage as the amoral Santouche, while Shelley Black is sexy and utterly believable as the lost Isle of Mercy. The rest of the cast, especially Lauren Kern as one of the weird little girls, does a fine job of being, um, really weird.

This strange little one-act play might leave you scratching your head in wonder, but it certainly makes a fine beginning to a night of Halloween absurdity.

-- Lee Williams


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