We’ve had to wait a little longer than normal for a new Theater Schmeater show, as the venerable company lost its lease on its Capitol Hill basement space last summer. Now, all is well again as Schmeater is back in a bright Belltown location that feels nearly as cozy as the old one, just with a decided lack of ceiling support columns blocking sightlines.
Thank goodness for that, as it’s advisable to keep your eyes on every single character in the new location’s inaugural production, Wayne Rawley’s horror spoof Attack of the Killer Murder … of Death!, not only because any one of them could be the killer, but because there’s a wealth of hilarious asides, verbal and non-verbal, issued from everyone across the play’s sprightly three acts.
Rawley’s got a distinct gift for writing wry, knowing dialogue that retains authenticity in spite of its self-awareness, as seen in recent plays Beating Up Bachman and the Schmeater-produced Live! From the Last Night of my Life. But as Attack proves, he’s also liberated by the freedom of farce, spinning absurdly overwrought dialogue in a way that doesn’t just acknowledge genre tropes, but carves out its own weird, hilarious sensibility. Rawley also directs, and though the space feels a little cramped for 11 characters, the show’s rhythms don’t suffer.
An ultra-low-budget film crew is attempting to wrap up its latest horror quickie in a decrepit old mansion on a remote island, but a death on the final day of filming halts production and puts everyone under suspicion. Wannabe ingénues, a washed-up director, exiled Commie types, and jealous underlings all might have a motive – or maybe the death was just an accident?
Any of the remarkably entertaining characterizations could be singled out, but Tim Moore’s plasticized leading man Martin Van Handsome is an especially funny dolt, solemnly spouting off reams of exposition with a big dumb grin on his face, while Lisa Branham’s self-absorbed prima donna Desdemona Sunset terrorizes her castmates with palpable glee.
One of the best things about Attack is it also functions as a genuinely engaging whodunit, not just a parody of one, where the ultimate reveal is a foregone conclusion. The narrative jackknifes here are as ridiculous as the most risible potboiler, but that just makes the thing all the more ridiculously fun.
Attack of the Killer Murder … of Death! is on stage at Theater Schmeater through Aug. 16. Tickets are available for purchase online.
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