Presented by Jade Sylvan and Fem Bones
Starring the Slaughterhouse Sweethearts
Created by Jade Sylvan (playwright & producer) Fem Bones (creator, director, & choreographer), Catherine Capozzi (composer, guitarist, & band leader)
By Gillian Daniels
(Cambridge, MA) Spider Cult: The Musical is deep fried pulp, beer-battered in burlesque and costume blood. This is a certain kind of creepy, specifically a Boston kind, certainly my kind. The choreographed fight scenes and blood shed are as enthusiastic as the stripping. While the plot didn’t need to be anything other than be a skeleton on which one could hang a few themed, stylish burlesque routines, Jade Sylvan and Fem Bones gives us violence, pathos, and insight into human relationships—a many-legged beast of a story.
Scout (Belle Gunz) is a mute young woman, troubled and wild. Her relationship with night club manager, Blondie (the hilarious Ginny Nightshade), is sexy without being exploitative, real without being melodramatic. It’s overshadowed by the past Scout can’t quite remember with her father, mad scientist, Liam (an at turns warm and unsettling performance from Complete Destruction).
What unfolds is a story of bad love, family, and murder sprees. It’s a black comedy with pasties, a grind house flick for the stage. As Noe Kamelamela noted in her preview, it feels like Faster, Pussycat! Kill Kill! (1965). It reminded me of the playful, comic gore and trashy sex of Troma Entertainment’s Tromeo and Juliet (1997). Regardless, it’s a dark adventure with stand-out routines by dance teacher Armadeira (Fem Bones), twins Wolf and Mouse (Simone de Boudoir and Honey Pie, respectively), and Mary Widow as Widow the Priestess.
Honestly, the most unremarkable part about the musical is its music. The songs aren’t awful, but they don’t seem to move the plot forward as quickly as the dialogue. Only a number by Mary Widow caught in my memory, but simply because she sings while twisting inside an aerial hoop. Catherine Capozzi’s work, minus the lyrics, has a dark, sensual vibe essential to the feel of the story that opens around is.
The story itself resolves neatly but darkly. Without any spoilers, the worldview of Spider Cult is, fittingly, grim. What makes it shine for me, though, is the un-abandoned joy it takes in its tropes. Within the parody, there’s a sincere love of evil science concoctions and scantily clad Amazons. Its cheesiness—convenient amnesia and watery, fake blood—doesn’t compromise its violent glee. It hop-scotches between genres and straddles multi-media. Simply, it’s fun.