Demon Diner | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Demon Diner

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Who Threw That Ham Productions, at the Bailiwick Arts Center.

Thanks to the success of Coed Prison Sluts and its many imitators, the gross-out late-night camp comedy has become a fixture. And in many ways Demon Diner is just one more fuck-filled, limb-strewn entry in this gory, lewd contest. The formula is to take a lowbrow, over-the-top film genre (prison films, or women-in-prison films, or slasher-horror movies) and exaggerate the hell out of it: splatter the stage with blood and flesh, make the girl a potty-mouth and the boy a serial killer.

In Demon Diner the genre being defiled--um, parodied--is the well-spoofed teen romantic comedy. Jimmy Ray, star of the football team, is going out with stuck-up Vanessa, but he really has eyes for poor Betty, who works part-time at the local diner. The comic twist is that the owners of the diner, who dabble in black magic, have a mad scheme to turn all the teens in town into limb-tearing, flesh-eating demons.

What saves the show from being just another god-awful gorefest--like this company's first foray into the genre, the abysmal stage version of Night of the Living Dead--is the wittiness of Keith Tadrowski's script and the comic depth of director Ed Basden's cast. Tadrowski tells his story well, and it's always clear what genre he's making fun of. He's also the king of bawdy dialogue: at one point a libidinous waitress purrs to one of her customers, "Would you like some poon with your Tang?" Basden's cast make Tadrowski's script their own, wringing laughs out of even the milder comic moments (Tucker Brown placing a beret atop her incredibly tall beehive hairdo, for example) and earning big laughs with every insane twist in the tale.

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