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Chupa Thrills

Chill with El Chupacabra.
Courtesy of Theatre Illuminata

Your checklist for a freaky Saturday night: blood-sucking vampire goats (chupacabras), a few live rats, some booze and a little jazz piano. Yep, you're in for quite the party when Theatre Illuminata throws its annual free-for-all fund-raising event, Chupa Cabaret: Primeval Houstonians Emerging from the Slime of Buffalo Bayou.

TI co-founders Julie Boneau and Karina Pal-Montaño bill their show as "down-to-earth," focusing mainly on cabaret, with a lot of song and a lot of dance. "It's essentially like going on a picnic in an open-air venue," says Pal-Montaño, who follows this golly-gee declaration with a plea to entrants of the party's costume contest: "Please don't bring a real chain saw." Killjoy.

This year's theme harks back to the good ol' days of B-movie cinema, when movie blood looked about as real as Kool-Aid but, by God, flowed like water. And that's just what Chupa Cabaret promises: everything in excess -- from the pop-up appearances of El Chupacabra himself, to live impromptu paintings by local artists Keith Reynolds and Paul Barces, to folks in garish, horrifically cheesy getups. Such mayhem is par for the course for Boneau and Pal-Montaño, who say that if you can keep people guessing, excited and "off the couch," you'll have a theater experience that one-ups your typical passive moviegoing evening. (Oh, and to up the ante, there'll be a lot of booze, too.)

Also contributing to the spectacle are TI's notorious Disco Diva Jaime Flowers, vocalists Karen Schlag and Stephanie Saint Sanchez, escape artist, illusionist and snake charmer John Cash Carpenter and the Sweft Power Dancers. The show technically runs 90 minutes, but in reality it'll hold out as long as the patrons, in their costumed bacchanal, do. "Alcohol is really the issue at hand," says Pal-Montaño, who adds that she wants patrons to be "relaxed and casual and festive." And nothing says relaxed, casual and festive like bloody stumps and wax teeth. ¡Que fiesta!

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