Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hypnodrome Head Trips

The strange little Grand Guignol theatre tucked underneath a freeway near Bryant and Tenth called the Hypnodrome...

...is performing a new show through the spring called "Hypnodrome Head Trips," which is a rotating series of playlets that are insanely eclectic and uneven (click here to get to their website).

My partner hated the show because of the hammy acting style but I ended up enjoying most of it thoroughly.

Possibly the most interesting piece is the curtain raiser, an improvisatory "new music" composition by composer John Zorn which consists of any number of players, instrumentalists and vocalists being led through a "game" where the conductor holds up a series of flash cards that start and end sounds, or asks for a crescendo/diminumendo and other musical instructions. It felt like we were at the Other Minds Music Festival, but hipper.

The pianist from Mills College (above on the left) learned the complex "game" in about fifteen minutes right in front of us, and performed the ten-minute composition along with a soprano and a saxophone player.

The conductor, Jamie Moore, above was a complete delight as he crouched, suddenly straightened his long frame, whipped flash cards around and beamed in maniacal delight at the sounds that were coming forth. The performance and performers are different every night, and they are worth the price of admission.

The remainder of the first half of the program were two installments of a five-part serial by Jonathan Horton about a mad scientist, his frustrated protege daughter, and a severed head. Russell Blackwood (above on the left), who is the guiding spirit behind the theater troupe, was as usual the highlight of the piece as he channeled Vincent Price at his most maniacal. There was also an intervening slide show of a hell-and-damnation Chick pamphlet cartoon, but the piece needs to be rethought because it's not all that amusing.

The second half starts with a 1950s sex-and-violence piece from the Parisian Grand Guignol called "Orgy in The Lighthouse" by Alfred Marchand. It's adapted by Eddie Muller (above), the founder and guiding spirit of the annual Film Noir Festival in San Francisco, and though it wasn't scary enough, it certainly was sexy.

Much of the sexiness was due to Eric Tyson Wertz (above) who is obscenely good-looking with his clothes off. The fact that his day job is as a physicist in a Silicon Valley lab only makes his exposure that much more titillating.

The final playlet is an original by Rob Keefe called "The Empress of Colma" about a trio of insane drag queens in grandma's basement in Colma who are delusional about their sublime beauty. It was jarringly out of tune with the rest of the evening, but I found it very funny, and this time Russell Blackwood channeled Vincent Price at his queeniest. It's something to see. (A few of these photos are publicity stills by David Allen. Thanks, David.)

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