The Capital Fringe Festival features just shy of 140 shows this year, but only one, to my knowledge, wherein the audience is offered plastic smocks upon entry. They’re not comfortable, but they’ll protect your clothes in the unlikely event you find yourself at the end of an arterial spray arc of fake blood. Which is actually, now that you mention it, not at all unlikely. By which we mean, it’s possible you will walk out of The Horrors of Online Dating looking like Sissy Spacek at the end of Carrie. The smocks are free and optional.
The comic thriller, about a lonely young woman looking for love on all the wrong websites, is the first musical offering from Molotov Theatre. Dedicated to reviving the grisly French theatrical tradition of Grand Guignol, Molotov is one of the many local outfits for which CapFringe has acted as midwife. The company debuted at the 07 festival with For Boston. That play, an original piece about a bloody lost weekend written by Molotov founding artistic director Lucas Maloney and Michael Mahon, shared “Best Comedy” honors in that year’s audience-vote Fringe Awards. Its follow-up in the 2008 festival, The Sticking Place, was voted “Best Overall.”
Molotov now does two shows per year outside of the festival — and they just got their 501(c)3 certification in February, which will make them eligible for other sources of funding — but their delight in making audiences squirm pins them now and forever as quintessentially fringe. “We’re doing something different because it’s different,” says Maloney, 28. “We’re not just another company exploring the human condition. We’re going to do something weird and something fun.”
Written by another CapFringe veteran, playwright/composer Shawn Northrip, Horrors packs the powerful one-two marketing punch of singing puppets and nubile exposed female flesh. Both Maloney and co-founder / managing director Alex Zavistovich, who earns his living doing marketing and public relations work for technology companies, are members of the cast. They’re staging it as a find-your-own venue production, at Playbill Cafe, to allow for a full 18-show run. “We want to make sure we’re eligible for the Helen Hayes Awards,” the 48-year-old Zavistovich laughs. But there’s another reason: Chitlins.
“We need more time than Fringe can afford us in a Fringe-run venue in terms of setup, but moreso, cleanup,” Maloney says. Molotov’s efforts to adapt its gross-out aesthetic to the spartan accommodations and pit-crew load-in / load-out pace at shared Fringe venues posed some interesting logistical and sanitary problems in years past. Their version of Radha Bharadwaj’s enhanced-interrogation drama Closet Land for last year’s Fringe was in the Redrum space, upstairs in the Fort Fringe complex. Zavistovich liked the room’s creepy atmosphere, but “we didn’t realize until we got there that there was no available water,” Zavistovich remembers. “We bought a heroic amount of wet-naps.”
Performed in The Shop, downstairs from Redrum, The Sticking Place was even sloppier, because whats blood without guts? “We were shoveling pig intestines off the floor, then mopping it with water we’d carried in from next door,” recalls Maloney.
Wait. Pig intestines?
“We used what they call ‘very clean’ chitlins, which we bought from Safeway,” Zavistovich says. “The chitlin industry has a lot to learn about the phrase ‘very clean.'”
The Horrors on Online Dating will be performed Wednesdays through Sunday at 8 p.m. at Playbill Cafe, 1409 14th St. NW, through July 31. Tickets here.