A Halloween tradition, complete with bloomer-wearing teenage girls and vigorious bottom-birching

"I think we're the first theater company to put on this play, ever," says Daniel Zilber, introducing Thrillpeddlers' production of a one-act called A Visit to Mrs. Birch. He insists the script is about 100 years old, but it plays suspiciously like modern camp: Mrs. Birch is a massive, English-Victorian schoolmistress in charge of bloomer-wearing teenage girls. "A visit to Mrs. Birch" always seems to involve a nice vigorous birching of somebody's bare bottom. The acting, mostly, is disposable, but Treacy Corrigan stands out as Mrs. Birch's assistant, who flushes with secret pleasure at the sight of a spanked schoolgirl. Thrillpeddlers has made Shocktoberfest!! a local Halloween tradition; its founders (Zilber and Russell Blackwood) claim to have a huge stack of scripts, mostly in French, from the old Théâtre du Grand Guignol, which was legendary in Paris for cheap, melodramatic horror. Alongside A Visit to Mrs. Birch, you can watch A Crime in a Madhouse, a truly horrible short play about a sane woman spending one too many nights in a French asylum. It's a classic of the genre, and Thrillpeddlers may be the first company to put it on in a very, very long time.

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