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1409 Playbill Cafe, 1409 14th Street NW
Saturday, July 17, at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 18, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 21, at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 22, at 8 p.m. Friday, July 23, at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 24, at 8 p.m. Sunday, July 25, at 8 p.m.
They Say: “A gory musical comedy with sex, drugs, and puppets about a killer who finds her victims through dating websites. Molotov Theatre Group (Pick of the Fringe 07′ Best Comedy, 08′ Best Overall) and playwright Shawn Northrip (07′ Best Musical) collaborate.”
Ian’s Take: Internet-enabled romantic encounters always have that element of danger. Unvetted and anonymous, anything could happen. Perhaps that’s the thrill of it for some, but just google “online dating murders” and you might be disabused of that titillation in a hurry. Or, just take in an evening of Molotov Theatre Group‘s bloody, bawdy Horrors of Online Dating.
The “horrors” in this case aren’t the kind you might talk over with a friend in the post-mortem for a particularly awful date: horrifically boring, horribly bad breath, that sort of thing. This is horror on a more visceral level, and I really can’t emphasize the “viscera” in “visceral” enough. A post-mortem is exactly what’s required after a date with Judy, who opens the play singing a song about the metaphorical dangers of dating before unveiling her latest potential paramour tied to a chair. Which is a kink he’s entirely into, until she she cuts a hole in his gut.
Judy has some issues to work through, none of which are helped by the things around her, whether it’s her dismissive cat (who she has regular conversations with), her laptop (which she also converses with, and which has a tendency to encourage her to meet men for murderous trysts), and her anti-psychotic drug Friendzeopene (yes, she talks with that, too). Her co-workers are condescending jerks, and the urge to kill is just too great to ignore, even after she tries to get herself on a self-help program.
Molotov’s production, in Grand Guignol style, doesn’t skimp on the gore. In fact, plastic ponchos are handed out at the door, and it’s suggested you use them, whether in the first row or the last: the energetic spurting of arterial blood can be ever so unpredictable. But this isn’t just humorless disembowlings. It’s also a musical comedy, and in the spaces between the busting open of guts, there’s plenty of less literal gut-busting to be had. When her pill bottle decides to do a little song and dance, he manages to rhyme gonorrhea, diarrhea, and panacea, which is as funny as it is foul.
There are about a dozen scene-changes too many for a show of this size, moving from apartment to office to coffee shop with a frequency that requires a lot of distracting furniture moves every few minutes. But otherwise, it’s an imaginitive staging in Playbill Cafe’s tiny backroom space, with an eerie jump-roping one-woman Greek chorus, and one particularly cinematic murder montage that’s perfectly choreographed for both maximum hilarity and maximum audience blood coverage.
Judy is unquestionably psycho, but Jenny Donovan mixes plenty of personal pathos in with the pain she’s doling out. She has a wide-eyed appeal that you want to root for, particularly when she’s violently doing in internet-stalking creeps who like to prey on women with low self-esteem. At an hour and a half, the show could use a little trim, particularly in all those scene changes, but as much fun as there is to be had in this carnival ride of a show, that’s really only a little too much of plenty of good things. Just be sure you have time to head home for a shower afterwards. And if you bring a date met online, you may want to think twice about taking them back home with you.
See It If: The only thing missing from Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles for you was the potential for interactivity in the bloody murder.
Skip It If: Shows with splash zones, whether Gallagher or Shamu, sound icky.