Fringe Review: Spookfish
Spookfish is a big glorious mess, an ambitious no-budget production fuelled by youthful passion.
GROUP: Haygen Brice Walker and Leigh E. Bicica
ATTENDED: Sept. 4, 11:55 p.m., Headlong Studios, 1170 S. Broad St.
CLOSES: Sept. 13
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: A haunted house that's not a haunted house...until it is.
WE THINK: Spookfish is a big glorious mess, an ambitious no-budget production fuelled by youthful passion.
I loved it.
The waiver audience is asked to sign and the plastic ponchos for the non-existent splash zone are just gimmicks, but take advantage of the BYOB policy -- you'll need a stiff one. A great young cast -- Joe Canuso (not the Theatre Exile director!), Arlen Shane Hancock, Jenna Kuerzi (who's also terrific in IRC's Exit the King), twice 2015 Barrymore-nominated Campbell O'Hare, and Zoe Richards -- plus another, not-clearly-identified actor -- don't play Walker's horror-flick inspired script for laughs, but take it to a higher level.
They all work in a decrepit haunted house attraction in a dilapidated warehouse (Headlong Dance Theater's back patio) near a small town's only destination, Walmart. Most of them have known each other all their lives, an intimacy that not only means they've all fucked each other (or have wanted to since kindergarten), but know each other's secret shames and tragedies. They know how to hurt each other the way strangers just don't, and won't -- like family.
These short attention span generation's lost souls snipe at each other, record encounters for future youtube humiliation, and drink, snort, and fuck to pass the time -- until the bodies start piling up. If swearing, violence, drugs, sex, bloody body parts, sex with those parts, and shocking personal revelations disturb you, sit this one out, Grandma. I found the cleverly plotted self-destruction of this band of misfits outrageous and engrossing, with a committed genuineness that kept it from devolving into winking satire. The actors are too good, and Walker's script reveals too much squalid small-town real life, for that to happen.
That's not to say Spookfish is perfect -- but its bold imperfections, high stakes, and ridiculous meta ending are part of its infectious rough charm.