Brain Damage: as adapted for stage by Molly Plunk at the Neo-Futurarium
i’m going to start by saying that i’m not a theater critic, i don’t usually write reviews for things anyway and i have no theater background. that being said, i’m also a big fan of cheesy movies, bad cinema [esp low-budget horror] and shock & schlock, for shock & schlock’s sake. this could easily be the most surreal thing i will ever see on stage. and i had a complete blast.
the Neo-Futurarium is most of the way through it’s ninth edition of a yearly ‘film fest’ in which directors adapt a terrible movie as a staged reading. this is my first year in attendance, and before last night, i had only seen Supergirl [which was also deftly executed by all involved].
the movie itself … is just bizarre. in a nutshell: A [seemingly] kindly old Jewish couple have lost their ’pet’, a bizarre, brain-eating, psychotropic drug-secreting, smooth-talking [and not a bad singer too] slug of unknown origin- named Aylmer. Enter Brian, whose apartment Aylmer has escaped to, and proceeds to ruin Brian’s life by using him to acquire human brains- in exchange for getting him high out of his mind.
it’s all very “Little Shop of Horrors” wrapped in a completely 80s “war on drugs, just say no” message. it has moments of abject horror and gore, interposed with ridiculously inappropriate situations and near-slapstick wtf moments. and yes, Aylmer does sing at one point.
Molly Plunk [whom i’d never met before last night] did a fantastic job bringing this nugget of ‘what?’ to the stage. for example, in the movie Aylmer is a puppet, eerily articulate, but no larger than an implement you might find in the dildo section of your favorite sex shop.
Ms Plunk herself played Aylmer- first appearing as only a hand puppet coming out if the ‘sink’, then standing to reveal her bizarre headgear [meant to replicate Aylmer’s semi-exposed brain, or whatever he’s supposed to have] atop a set of blue tights … and a strap-on harness rigged to a bladder on her back, used to secrete the drugs for Brian. now, if you’d never seen the film, you might think Aylmer was just some freak, breaking into people’s homes to seduce them and squirt all over them. but, in the context of having seen the movie, this bizarre bit of puppetry allows a full-size actor to play an otherwise slug-sized antagonist. after a while i stopped looking between her left hand, her head and her crotch and just started to see ‘Aylmer’ as a whole. though, once i noticed the googly-eyes on her strap-on, that was a distraction [and a hilarious one, i’m just trying to find a way to point it out]
the plot just moves itself along. there’s gore, there’s shouting, dirty sex in a club, lots of blood, lots of the drug [which is a blue fluid that looks like the compare/contrast fluid they use in commercials for tampons and pads], a [male] nude shower scene, more sex, more blood, the aforementioned musical number, and a long, detailed history lesson from Morris [the elderly Jewish man] on the history of The Aylmer. and lots of bad dialogue, all brilliantly delivered by the cast.
the show ended, the stage an absolute mess [and i’ve been to Impress These Apes and The Telethon shows that put Gallagher to shame] and the crowd too busy applauding to pick up thier jaws from the floor.
i don’t know in what context i’d ever see this done again, but i’d pay cash money to see it, and drag as many friends as i could.