Grand Guignol was a popular form of theater in Paris in the late 19th century. It specialized in gore, and the success of a show was judged by how many audience members fainted (two was about average).
Billed as a rock opera, the original work La Sirena recently revived the sanguinary genre at AllWays Lounge. Samantha Hubbs wrote the book and score, and though a synopsis might give a nightmarish impression, Hubbs' intent is clearly comic. Under Dennis Monn's direction, the talented cast brought out the absurdity of the story. No one fainted, but laughter may have claimed a few victims.
La Sirena ("mermaid" in Spanish) opens with a scene from an opera within the drama. Hubbs plays Marina, the diva, who sings a duet with Richard (Ren French), a Greek warrior wearing a plumed helmet suitable for Southern Decadence. Outside the opera within the play, they are lovers, and it's her dreaded birthday. She wants a facelift.
Flash forward to the bizarre heart of the story: Dr. Trenton Crane (played with delicious perversity by Vatican Lokey) is a plastic surgeon who re-assembles his patients into monsters. His wife Barbara (Otter) has been altered into a raven and lives in a giant cage. Naturally, this Frankenstein has his devoted attendant: Azmodius (Richard Mayer).
The diva's husband, Giancarlo (Nino Mazzaro), who dresses and talks like a Mafia hitman, wants Marina to suffer, perhaps because she is reluctant to play his sadomasochistic games. He wants to pay the doctor to turn her into a monster. News reporter Stephanie Rynold (Jackie Freeman) reveals that Richard and the public are biting their nails for news of Marina.
There is deep sentiment behind all the grotesquerie. The doctor falls in love with the diva. Azmodius falls in love with the doctor. Giancarlo falls in lust with a pair of coke whores (Gambit's Missy Wilkinson and Frances Rabalais).
It's not a simple tale, and narrative extravagances are emphasized by the outrageous costumes, wigs and out-sized fake genitals. Musical director Ratty Scurvics accompanies the songs on an electric organ and punctuates the melodrama with staccato chords. Tory Ducote and Dennis Monn designed the effective set.
Like the original Grand Guignol, La Sirena is not everyone's cup of tea, but if you enjoy light-hearted bloodletting, hope for a revival. — Dalt Wonk