The Blood Brothers series’ latest installment pours blood all over the Brick stage.
The Blood Brothers series, about the "legendary fraternal murderers/anthology hosts," has a long history in the theaters of New York City, having begun in 2006. This cycle of shows, Bedlam Nightmares, began this year at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg, and features the adventures of this extremely skilled pair of criminals in the Hospital One insane asylum, along with the most deadly and interesting criminals the hospital could find. This iteration, scheduled quite appropriately for Halloween weekend, features the Execution Day of the famous brothers in front of the most wealthy and powerful donors to the facility, but not before they get to put on one final show.
The Horror Anthology
The Blood Brothers show is set up as an "anthology," where five standalone vignettes written by different playwrights are woven into the larger story of the brothers themselves. While it is at times difficult to follow the main plot of the show or keep track of all the characters without having seen the previous plays that make up the series, these short plays are where Execution Day truly shines, bringing to life fully fleshed out and truly disturbing characters to expand on the world of the Blood Brothers.
My favorite pieces of the evening were the first play about a man being haunted by the memory of his dead wife, "The Art of What You Want," and the musical adventure of a young boy terrorizing the hospital where his mother works, "All in Good Fun," both written by Nat Cassidy. Both pieces are overtly sinister without being over-the-top with horror, and at the same time provide some of the best moments of dark humor throughout the evening. The music of "All in Good Fun" in particular is energetic and engaging, the sort of sung storytelling that is difficult to do well and here pulled off flawlessly.
The Creepy and the Gory
There are almost no true supernatural elements in the play, which makes everything that occurs even creepier--all of the crimes and mind games that appear in these stories could easily occur in real life as well. The "Daddy's Girl" play by Mariah MacCarthy is particularly mundane, which makes the disturbing crimes it leads up to in the end all the more jarring. If anything, the least believable elements of the show were the fantastical or "sci fi" moments, such as the brainwashing of Sonia/Leslie and Hospital One's secret power and influence in the outside world.
Of course, as a Blood Brothers play and as a Halloween play, this show is all about the gore, even featuring its own Gore Designer, Stephanie Cox-Williams. Execution Day uses a variety of different techniques to bring horror on stage to life, from shadow puppetry to sleight of hand to actual spurts of stage blood. The first two rows of audience seating even come with parkas to protect from all of the sprays of blood, and those splash seats are used to full effect. And of course, there is the expert iconic make-up of the Blood Brothers themselves, to round out the full horror effect.
The Spirit of the Show
There is a large ensemble cast and a great sense of community among the performers in Execution Day, and almost everyone involved in the show from designers to directors and playwrights shows up on stage at some point. The Blood Brothers themselves, played by Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer, along with Grandma Blood Stephanie Cox-Williams, are the stars of the show, as well as the founders of the series itself. They have each crafted a dynamic, unique character without the benefit of even having a name, the essence of horror without being the least bit cheesy. Father/daughter duo Tom Reid and Jessica Luck of "Daddy's Girl" are also intriguing, complex figures, as is Michael Markham as the tormented widower Harris from "The Art of What You Want."
The highlight of Execution Day, beyond all of the thrilling moments of violence of course, is the ease with which it moves in and out of different stories, jumping through time in flashbacks, repeating monologues and keeping the audience constantly off-balance while maintaining the spirit of an anthology show. If the overarching plot was harder to stay interested in and the ending "moral" about the evils of capitalism and the drug and health insurance industries was a little preachy, this was well balanced by the entertaining and thoughtful pieces contained within the play.
Execution Day has finished its run now, but we are very excited to see what the next installment of the Blood Brothers show will bring. For more information on the series, check out their website.
This article was previously published on CHARGED.fm.