If you're looking for a genuinely twisted alternative to the routine haunted house or overhyped theme park this Halloween, check out Madame Guignol's Cabaret of Death. This is the fifth consecutive year the Hunger Artists have unveiled their sick, twisted and naughty Halloween homage, and once again, the troupe aims to shock: pints of fake blood, gory onstage antics and more tawdry lingerie than you're likely to see even in the back pages of this publication.
Presiding over this collection of short vignettes is Mistress of Ceremonies Madame Guignol—a svelte, sultry dominatrix played with campy panache by Kimberly Fisher. She alone is worth the price of admission. Exploiting the fealty of her whipped manservant Maggott (Timothy C. Todd, in a wide-eyed throwback to Peter Lorre), she runs her variety show with an iron fist, dispensing death and punch lines with the capricious cruelty of Hannibal Lecter deciding on lunch.
The actual material that rounds out the show isn't nearly as entertaining or stimulating as Fisher, though. Perhaps it needs to be more fully developed or contain a few more jagged edges. For the most part, it's whacked-out sketch comedy with an occasional gory twist. It's fun, and the ensemble knows how to play the material for laughs, but too few genuinely delicious wicked moments are created onstage.
It's more kooky than spooky and more kinky than creepy, but the offbeat brand of dark humor makes for an entertaining experience. One more thing: arrive on time, so as not to incur the wrath of the temperamental Madame. And avoid the trippy dude selling T-shirts out front —methinks he's a few pills short of a full prescription.
Madame Guignol's Cabaret of Death at Hunger Artists Theatre, 204 E. Fourth St., Ste. I, Santa Ana, (714) 547-9100. Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; Mon.-Tues., 8:30 p.m. Through Oct. 31. $10-$12.