Satire at St. Ann’s
Warehouse pokes fun at demons & hellfire
All the evils in the world are currently housed in St. Ann’s
Warehouse, conveniently organized and explained on a walking
tour to save you and your friends from eternal damnation.
Lead by a demon tour guide, you walk through the "Hell House,"
which features rooms depicting social evils and bad decisions.
You enter scenes of teenage abortion, a school shooting, gay
marriage and more until you are ultimately greeted by Jesus.
As you laugh at the demon’s comments and strange social relativism,
you may also feel queasy as you watch a girl’s rape and a student
kill his classmates, leaving you to take a step back and ask
yourself: this is just a joke, right?
According to research provided by the producers of "Hell
House," Les Freres Corbusier, actual hell houses - created
by the controversial Rev. Jerry Falwell - began popping up in
the U.S. in the 1970s. Evangelical churches in the Midwest and
South would put on these performances every October, hoping to
show people how the evils in the world will lead them to an eternity
in the fiery pits of hell, but with the helpful message that
it is not too late to accept Christ into their lives and ultimately
It wasn’t until 1995, however, that they became more popular.
Rev. Keenan Roberts of the Abundant Life Church of Christ in
Denver took over and created "The Hell House Outreach Manual."
This handy packet provides detailed instructions so anyone can
stage a "Hell House." It has everything you need to
know, from costumes to recipes on how to make the most convincing
blood: "Try mixing white corn syrup with red food coloring."
Although Les Freres Corbusier’s production, directed by Alex
Timbers, is more of a satire than an attempt to convert non-believers,
much of the text is straight from the manual, and there are some
unsettling parts of the show.
You first start to cringe while waiting for your tour to start.
You’ll read some of the selected pages from Roberts’s manual,
including this tip about the gruesome teen abortion scene: "Do
your very best to buy or purchase a meat product that will resemble
as much as possible pieces of a baby that are being placed in
the glass bowl for all to see. It sounds horrifying; but the
more real you can make the meat look, the more powerful the impact
will be on every person who goes through."
Les Freres Corbusier is a Manhattan-based theater company that
describes its mission as "combining historical revisionism,
multimedia excess, found texts, sophomoric humor and rigorous
The organizers of any given "Hell House" - traditionally
a pastor or church group - are allowed permission to modernize
some of the scenes so they are more suited to a particular location
and its audience.
More of an avant-garde theater group than a band of evangelical
Christians, Les Freres Corbusier certainly does this by nailing
its portrayal of the young Brooklyn hipster generation. Over
lattes, talk of Jon Stewart and a bowl of edamame, the characters
of Sam, Rachel and Lance discuss spoofing fundamentalist religion
"Wait, wait, wait," says Sam. "Fundamentalist
religion and belief systems? You’re talking about weighty, serious
issues here. They shouldn’t be treated mockingly. To be honest,
guys, I’m kind of over irony."
The three friends pause awkwardly, then burst into laughter.
They give each other high-fives right before they are dragged
away by some pesky demons.
What level of hell do you think the hipsters will end up on?
To find out, Brooklynites should visit "Hell House"
and repent! At the end of the suffering - and after meeting Jesus,
of course - you get to celebrate saving your soul with a sing-a-long
hoedown. The happy, smiling Christians will give you some juice
and a powdered donut, and you will once again be at peace with
Les Freres Corbusier’s "Hell House" runs through Oct.
29 at St. Ann’s Warehouse (38 Water St. at Dock Street in DUMBO).
Daily performances start at 7:30 pm with tours of the house starting
every 15 minutes. The show is closed on Oct. 23. Tickets are
$25. For more information, call (212) 397-2666 or visit www.nychellhouse.com.
©2006 Community Newspaper Group