Grand Guignol is a tough style to pull off. Finding comedy in gore and gore in comedy takes a good sense of timing that applies to both laughs and chills. For those seeking both in this festive season, “Grand Guignol: Bad Milk” at iO will be for you.
The evening of sketches revolves around a never-deceased Walt Disney ushering the audience through his latest ride, an amalgamation of horrors he dreams up in his sleep. One scene involves an automaton family jerkily malfunctioning and slowly gaining more and more menace in the process. Another features dancing scarecrows out to claim their next victim. Still another involves a stripper baring all, and I do mean all. A mother and daughter bicker in a time travel loop. A pair of friends enter a bat-infested cave, and it’s not clear who will live to tell the tale. And every once in a while, Walt Disney pops up to reassure us that accidents happen on rides in his park all the time, but not to worry.
Writers Lisa Burton, Jim McDoniel and Brad Pike provide their all-female ensemble with a variety of violent yet daffy experiences to churn through. The Walt Disney monologues help tie together a wealth of disparate scenes, and keep the energy consistent. If there are any supplementary connections or thematics at play, they shine through via the performances, as each woman must take on a slew of child and male roles in order to tell stories about changelings and loss effectively. Having an all-woman team take on every part in a universe governed by frights and alleviated only by how much we are all in on the joke is a telling statement right now.
Performers Kathleen Kinlin, Kat Evans, Linda Orr, Nicole Vespa, and Georgie Caldwell all throw themselves into the work with glee. Many of the sketches involve spontaneous blood spurts, and they masterfully bring these across to the squicked out delight of the audience. The ensemble works well together, forming distinct relationships in each scene, and diving into bold physical choices and demented faces when the need is called for.
The final performance of “Grand Guignol: Bad Milk” occurs this coming Saturday, and is well worth it for fans of horror and comedy. If there’s one thing that helps keep the chills of real life at bay, it’s an escape in a world far more colorful and terrifying than one’s own.
TEN WORD SUMMARY: Looking for laughs with your gore? This one’s for you!
DIE RATING: d10 — “Worth Going To”
Show: “Grand Guignol: Bad Milk”
Venue: iO Theater (1501 N Kingsbury St)