The Blood Brothers are back, from wherever they came from — which is old news reports on clown-faced serial killers, and nostalgia sites for the haunted-house hosts of vintage horror movies repackaged for pre-cable TV. They are the compelling community-guignol stage characters of Pete Boisvert and Patrick Shearer, participant observers to the morality-tale inhumanity which is epidemic in our species and of which the Blood Brothers are just the fright-makeupped mascots. (Their latest live-action EC Comic just closed at Brooklyn’s Brick Theater but will be re-possessing the place with a new episode in May.)
In the Blood Brothers’ world the tragedies of history are rerun pretty much as the same tragedies; this time (in Bedlam Nightmares Part One: Strapped In), abuse of captive mental patients and snakepit-movie stereotypes rise again with zero retribution or redemption, except maybe the sour self-awareness of the Brothers, MCs of their own story. At the start of this new series they’re walk-ons in it too, apprehended for a gulag asylum like the situational setup of some even-more-psychotic Stooges short.
These anthologies always run through exploitation cinema’s top-tens of human folly, including the spiritual seekers who don’t know what they’re dealing with and get more than they bargained for, in the evening’s standout segment, “Into The Life of Things” by Nat Cassidy.
Cassidy has a stereophonic ear for both the insider’s delusion and the outsider’s confusion (each of which will be duly punished) at a wilderness yoga retreat, where supernatural complications ensue which will land one lucky disciple in the Blood Brothers’ new place of residence.
As a believer sworn to silence, Stephanie Willing enacts a sublime kinetic narrative of danced and gestured expression (and embodies just as pristine pretention when her character breaks the vow), while Matthew Trumbull as her doubting husband paces out of his yoga-pretzels with a positively Chaplinesque totter, his expression set in a world-exhausted facial drawl worthy of Keaton — more of the Brothers’ history-repeated-as-not-so-funny — and August Schulenburg is tragic and hilarious as a guru spouting Cassidy’s gourmet psychobabble.
Highlights in other sections include Bob Laine as an eerily benevolent patient showing a new-guy around in what could be the plays’ most restrained performance (and thus maybe makes Laine’s character the most crazy), and Kristen Vaughan as the hospital’s burlesque-Ratched head doctor/warden in a role that goes over the top and still lands perfectly due to Vaughan’s understanding that the best buffoons take themselves completely seriously.
Toward the end the Doctor menaces one Blood Brother with a scalpel and ponders “what to remove,” then settles on “your audience,” addressing the crowd and cutting off the mass-killers’ attention supply. It could be that as the series progresses (one new show every other month) the Brothers in isolation will be forced to consider the consequences of their actions and the implications of their art. They’ll be really dangerous once they’ve lost their innocence.