I had a guest from my native San Francisco stay with me last weekend. He was a big Broadway fan and wanted to check out the shows in Times Square. While we were exploring the bright lights and garish ads of the heart of America, I took him to the Drama Book Shop. It's one of my favorite book stores in the world. It's full of young, hungry actors and old thespians with bored eyes. The shelves are chock-full of plays with blank covers and evocative names and I can spend all day browsing there.
Anyway, while he was flipping through a vampire paper doll book, I found a new play on the shelves. The cover was black and featured a screaming woman, a knife, and plenty of blood. Ten bucks later, I have Slasher: A Horrifying Comedy.
Slasher: A Horrifying Comedy tells the story of a broke young woman hired to take over a starring role in a low budget horror film. This doesn't sit well with her housebound mother, an embittered old hag with a host of psychosomatic illnesses and a persecution complex. As the daughter begins her movie career under the tutelage of a sleazy director, the mom schemes with a violent fundamentalist group to stop the production by any means necessary.
I wish I saw Slasher: A Horrifying Comedy performed live. It's an engaging story with interesting characters and some fascinating themes, and I'd like to see it performed. It's not a particularly long play and it's one of those very self-aware narratives where the characters seem to be doing as much commenting on the story as they are engaging in it, and I'd love to see how it plays live.
There are a couple of interesting ideas discussed in the play. First, the mother objects to the movie on feminist principles: horror movies degrade and commodify women and the makers are little more than vile sexist pimps peddling sleaze to an apathetic audience. As the play moves along, we learn that she uses her combative attitude as a way to avoid dealing with the world, but I found it telling that she allied herself with the bright young religious fanatic who firebombs abortion clinics. It's an interesting parallels for the way seventies-era progressive groups found their goals aligned with fundamentalist groups in their opposition of pornography. While their goals were ostensibly noble, they found themselves in bed with one of the most controlling and conservative groups in the United States.
Which is not to say that the poor people involved in the horror movie come off as a saintly victim. The director of the movie is an opportunistic sleaze with a darkly violent streak and the already beleaguered production descends into chaos. I can't tell if playwright Allison Moore is a genre aficionado with strong writing skills or someone who really doesn't like the genre, but the plays asks "who watches this stuff? Why do we find images of young girls being murdered so titillating?" As a life long horror fan, I'm used to a bit of finger wagging but this one is particularly sharp. I felt a little chided.
Anyway, if you dig Scream-style self-referential horror, gender and cultural themes, and a whole lot of grand guignol gore, give Slasher a read. I enjoyed the crap out of it.