THE CORPSE GRINDERS
Some Mo' Productions
at Transient Theatre
Gross, misogynistic, and utterly unnecessary are a few of the words that describe The Corpse Grinders, Some Mo' Productions' theatrical adaptation of Ted V. Mikels's comic horror film.
Not that The Corpse Grinders doesn't have plenty to offer. It features Nazis, necrophilia, rape, murder, cannibalism, killer cats, a gay cop, and women who can't get enough sex. If all that weren't enough, feline superstars Garfield, Sylvester, and Bill the Cat show up for cameos.
Director Timothy M.P. Lynch told me after the show that the whole idea had started out as a joke and just got out of control. I nodded, secretly wishing it had turned into something truly outrageous. I can laugh against my will, against my politics, against all reason. But the problem with The Corpse Grinders is that it's just so damn stupid. Not hip-stupid, not stupid-with-a-purpose, not above-it-all-stupid, but just plain old-fashioned stupid.
The story's pretty straightforward: Landau, a fascist in therapy for his violent tendencies, takes over the Lotus Gourmet Cat Food Company. He adds a secret ingredient--human flesh--which makes the cat food irresistible and the profits skyrocket. There are, of course, a couple of hitches. For one thing, he needs a steady supply of corpses to feed into his meat grinder. For another, the taste of human flesh apparently turns cats into killers. So the show consists mostly of cats ravaging an assortment of people and Landau procuring bodies.
None of this is terribly original--think of Sweeney Todd--but that's not the problem. It's not just the concept that's borrowed, but just about every sexist joke and mannerism--think of Valley of the Dolls.
Sean Abley, who adapted Mikels's story for the stage, plays the relentless neofascist, and his Landau did look as if he might break into a medley of "Edelweiss" and "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" at any minute. Abley also managed to give himself a few funny lines about the 12-step antiviolence program Landau's in, Aryans Anonymous. But unfortunately, not enough was done with the idea of the Nazi in therapy.
Katy Liebler plays the story's unsung heroine, the oversexed Nurse Robinson. She is a bimbo, of course, but an expert bimbo: that is, she is not as dumb as she looks. In fact, it's she who figures out Landau's diabolical plot. Much credit has to go to Liebler for whatever shreds of dignity she's salvaged from this part. It seemed every time I blinked, I opened my eyes to find her straddling Dr. Glass (Dominic Hamilton-Little), a tormented surgeon who accidentally comes across evidence of Landau's dastardly doings.
Later Nurse Robinson gets raped by Landau's manservant, a blathering idiot named Maltby, played a little too convincingly by David Koechner. In what is probably the evening's most misogynistic turn, Nurse Robinson ends up falling for Maltby and mourning his eventual demise. It's not funny. Indeed, it's pretty terrifying to realize that in this day and age, some people still think that's possible, or worse, that rape is a source of humor.
Women as a whole fared pretty badly in The Corpse Grinders. There were plenty of snatch jokes, oodles of commentary about how women smell, and even a pretty sharp little slur about Italian women and facial hair.
Curiously, the only halfway decent relationship in The Corpse Grinders is between David (Peter Mohrmann), an intern of sorts at the hospital, and Officer Stick (Steven Ivankovich), a gay-boy dream boat in cop's clothing. The play offers plenty of camp and plenty of pokes at gay stereotypes. I had a hard time trusting it, considering the material about women, but overall the gay stuff seemed to survive Abley's poison pen.
The other survivor here was Theresa Mulligan, cast in nine different roles, all thankless. She managed to distinguish each one, refusing to be defeated by the material.
Undeniably there were laughs in The Corpse Grinders. I mean, yes, the boys all tittered. But even their laughter diminished as the show wore on. And by the end, I was simply stunned by its sheer worthlessness.