Photo by Deidre ShooAnother Halloween season, anothervisit from Madame Guignol, the hostess of what's become something of an annual blood-splattered ritual in OC (the Madame takes her name from Grand Guignol theater, a 19th-century French invention that reveled like a GWAR show in onstage gore and dismemberment).
But in this year's production—as always, a series of short plays interspersed with commentary from the madame—our seductive, leggy hostess (Kimberly M. Fisher) seems to have gotten strangely preachy, something of a counter to her foil, the Reverend Jackson (Kelly Flynn), around whom this staging is built. The theme is Hellhouse, a bizarre, real-life Christian evangelical idea many churches around the country have adopted each October in response to Satanic, Pagan Halloween: have impressionable children wander through rooms of people acting out "sinful" scenes—a teen girl having an abortion, a young boy blowing his head off after listening to Ozzy records, a queer man dying of AIDS—in hopes that the kids will be scared shitless into finding Jesus. Blooort!
Sure, hell houses are completely stupid—not to mention highly offensive to anyone who believes God is supposed to represent love, not uninformed, judgmental fear-mongering. The problem with Guignol this year is that she spends too much time matching wits with the Rev., arguing about scripture interpretations, condemnation, good-versus-evil, and other weighty topics that, given Guignol's nine-year run of fabulously gratuitous, blood-gushing gore, feel oddly out of place.
So we get vignettes where Jesus gets murdered, filtered through a dodgy abortion parable; obnoxious teen girls putting curses on one another; backstabbing army buddies who get what's coming to them; a kidnapped Harry Potter; a crazed TV preacher who maims people on camera (the higher the donation, the bloodier the carnage).
The best of these is "Gorge Rising," where a burger joint worker (Leonard Joseph Dunham) is forced to eat his own product—oh, and handfuls of rat poo—by two whacked-out fast-food junkies who demand the antidote to their saturated fat addiction. It's the funniest work in the production.
That humor is something Guignol could have used a lot more of. Bigger themes aren't really what we want from the madame. We fondly recall two years ago, when we were provided with trash bags to protect us from the random splatter of fake blood, but this year, there's a noticeable lack of it. We want to see naked, blood-soaked men squeezing out of a screaming girl's vagina. We want freshly carved spleens, brains and testicles getting smashed with a hammer. We want shower slashings and eyeball slittings and brain eatings. And while there is some of that this year, there just isn't enough. Tip for next year's All Hallow's Eve: How about Guignol's Greatest, Gruesomest Hits?
MADAME GUIGNOL'S MACABRE THEATRE: HELLHOUSE AT HUNGER ARTISTS THEATRE, 699-A S. STATE COLLEGE BLVD., FULLERTON, (714) 680-6803; WWW.HUNGERARTISTS.COM. THURS.-SAT., Oct. 28-30, 8 P.M.; SUN., 7 P.M. $12-$15.