Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hemophelia's House of Horrors (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Some of us with Halloween were every day. Or every month at least. Hemophelia's House of Horrors is a comedy variety show aimed squarely at that precise audience.

Hemophelia (Lara Fisher) is our hostess, the love child of Elvira Mistress of the Dark and Hannibal Lecter. She introduces a series of sketches dealing with typical light-hearted fare. Children contemplating the murder of their mother. A Twilight Zone-esque tale of a lout who meets a bosom  he cannot handle. Torture. Mass death. That kinda thing.

To be honest, it was a mixed bag. Was it funny? Yes. Was it entertaining and clever and very much worth my time? Beyond doubt! But it did feel a tad under-rehearsed. Sometimes one could see the humor hovering at one level when it could have easily gone higher (and funnier) with a little work. Indeed, the first sketch proved a case in point. Without going into too many details it all came down to a babysitter telling a tall tale to get her little charges to shut up and go to bed. It all spirals out of control from there. It worked (indeed set a nicely comic and macabre tone for the whole show) but with a little more work it could have been hilarious.

That held true throughout. Never once was I bored or felt un-entertained. But I've seen better from the Visceral Company, who've created something of a high bar for themselves. Then again, I watched the show on opening night, complete with the traditional jitters. In fact, my own guess is the ensemble and their sketches will keep improving. Already HHOH (I like to imagine this pronounced as "H'hoe") makes for a very nice blend of SCTV and a slew of horror movies. Given a chance, I'd gladly see it again!

Special mention should go to the delightful "Habeas Corpus" bit roughly halfway through. My words cannot do the piece justice, but let us just note the presence of puppets. Leave it at that. Kudos to Jana Wimer who created it.

I also wanted to give a special shout-out to Cloie Wyatt Taylor, not simply for being a good actress (the entire cast did a very good job) but for doing a magnificent job of physical acting in the sketch with the brothers. It was an entirely silent role yet her character came shining through. I note she also doubled as choreographer!

Samm Hill also did a very good job when it came to actually conveying a great deal with his voice. This is a pet peeve of mine, actors who have not mastered their instrument. Well, he has--and it showed itself off best in the last sketch (all about when things go wrong in the middle of a Satanic ritual--don't you HATE it when that happens?) The bit about a surgeon worked less well, but that seems to me an extremely difficult piece to get right. The tone required would probably need a lot more time to nail down (see rehearsal above).

Cynthia Zitter played several parts, of various ages and types, doing them very well. She enjoys a quite interesting and compelling stage presence--one my eyes did not wish to leave.

Matt DeNoto performed as well as wrote and did the songs for the show. His abilities came across as very real and praiseworthy, even in the problematical sketch with Mr. Hill. I especially liked him in the Satanic Ritual sketch (Note for life: Do not reveal to anyone involved in dark magic secrets you don't want them to know. Really.)

Casey Cristensen in truth didn't have a lot to do overall--that is, she didn't really play any of the central roles for the most part. These kinds of parts all too often end up with, well, lesser performers. One the things I so liked about HHOH was how uniformly good the entire ensemble proved to be, including Mis Christensen as well as Brian Prisco.

As for Miss Fisher as Hemophelia, she fulfilled her role admirably, with just the right blend of cute and psycho-horror. She sings quite nicely as well. Her smile and voice remained with me. Still do, in fact.

Hemophelia's House of Horrors plays Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 pm until June 8, plus special Hollywood Fringe performances Tuesday, June 11, at 8pm and Thursday, June 13, at 10:30pm (No performances May 17-18. Head to the Lex at 6760 Lexington Avenue, Hollywood, 90038 (corner of Lexington and Highland, thereabouts, just north of Santa Monical Blvd).

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