“A Brief History of Murder” is an unsettling barrage of strange characters and horrific non-sequiturs set in a small town that only David Lynch would find hospitable.
This disturbed play at The Brick Theater chronicles a series of grisly murders in Sentinel, Okla., by a lupine demon named Fenrus who mutilates his victims in increasingly vicious ways while fulfilling a vague quest to gather souls and reduce the local population.
And while the craziness makes for compelling theater, I was left wondering who exactly were the protagonist and antagonist in the nightmarish Grand Guignol in which every character had some sort of demented obsession or bloody skeleton in the closet.
Written by Richard Lovejoy, the “Victims” portion of the two-part play (the other is called “Detectives”) admirably escalates the insanity, making for an entertaining and unpredictable experience.
But the chaos comes at a price. The sizeable cast of victims serve more as vessels for madness than actual people who evolve over an hour and a half.
Some of the locals caught up in the whirlwind of craziness include a photographer who is snapping pictures of the locals eating pastries in the nude, a murderous ex-KGB agent and a foul-mouthed motel owner.
Overall, the people of Sentinel are like the characters in Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” — an apparently wholesome bunch that turns out to be quite demented and depraved.
The buffoonish mayor is actually a cult leader, Sentinel’s top cop ends up a liege of Hades, and the local artist — what a symbolic moment! — literally gets a pie in the face.
The play follows them, along with other creepy locals, who are caught up in a hellish scheme hatched by two demonic figures whose goals beyond making a gory mess are unclearIn the opening scene, Fenrus (a demonic Timothy Reynolds), establishes what becomes a familiar pattern — an extremely awkward conversation culminating in violent death.
Reynolds never holds back either. At one point, he’s smelling and licking a victim’s shoe, doing a great impression of a hellhound.
And while subsequent victims do not top the blood-curdling scream of the first 17-year-old who falls prey to the demon, their viscera eventually becomes so copious that director Ivanna Culinnan was scrubbing down the stage during set changes.
Fortunately, Culinnan had plenty of opportunities for janitorial duties; the play features set changes roughly every five minutes.
Despite the ample amount of shock value either intentional — such as the disemboweling — or unintentional — such as the final fight scene that was so badly staged that a few audience members mockingly laughed — the narrative of “Victims” is far from coherent.
Instead, the theatergoer is nothing more than a mere observer in the apocalyptic final days of Sentinel, and by the end there is no true sense of horror as its unlikable residents meet their demise.
Still, “A Brief History of Murder” is so bizarre and over the top that anyone looking for a surreal start to their evening will be more than satisfied.
“A Brief History of Murder,” two interlocking plays, at the Brick Theater [575 Metropolitan Ave. between Lorimer and Union avenues in Williamsburg, (718) 907-6189] will run through Jan. 31. Tickets are $18 for one performance or $25 for both.
©2010 Community News Group
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