Tongue-in-cheek post-modernism gets a thorough workout in the Living Room production of “A Bucket of Blood,” a show in which the performers on stage appear to having at least as much fun as the audience.
Screenwriter-turned-playwright Mitch Brian serves up an amusing adaptation of a 1959 Roger Corman movie, a horror flick that satirized beatnik culture and the modern art world. Brian translates the essence of the film to the Living Room stage, more or less without commentary, and even assigns himself a small role as an art critic.
The plot revolves around a shy coffeehouse busboy named Walter (Matt Weiss), who puts up with a fair amount of verbal abuse from his employer (Damian Blake). Carla (Kimberely Queen) is friendlier to Walter, who is unabashedly enthralled by Maxwell Brock (Forrest Attaway), a beat poet given to extemporaneous improvisations with the house band.
Walter’s life changes one night when he accidentally kills the cat in his boarding house and decides to entomb the critter in modeling clay. He takes his work back to the coffeehouse and offers it as a “sculpture.” One thing leads to another and soon Walter is “sculpting” human models, including an undercover cop (Coleman Crenshaw) and a snooty dilettante (Meredith Wolfe).
The joke, of course, is that art lovers and even a critic can swoon in the presence of the startling realism Walter achieves by slapping clay on a corpse. Ultimately, the truth is revealed and poor Walter meets an ugly end.
Director Cody Wyoming has assembled a talented cast, some of whom take it over the top a bit too enthusiastically, while the ensemble generally performs the material with erratic rhythms. There are a couple of standouts, however. Attaway seems quite comfortable in the skin of a pompous poet who performs improvised odes full of pity for those lost souls beyond the redemptive power of art (they are “blind fish swimming in a cave of aloneness,” he intones at one point). He explains that he can never repeat a poem because “repetition is death” and declares the greatest advance in poetry to be “the elimination of clarity.” Attaway treats Maxwell’s performances with all the attention to detail that a Shakespearean soliloquy might require, and the results are memorable.
The show’s other dominant performance comes from Weiss, who is so convincing as Walter that he becomes the unsettling anchor for the show. Walter’s arc is as sad as it is comical and Weiss achieves surprising levels of poignancy. (Weiss deserves special mention for another contribution: He designed and built the sets and served as the show’s technical director and assistant director.)