A Thunderbird Night of Terror

Burnt-out rock stars, death metal, and a kilt-wearing bipolar Scots nationalist


Through Sept. 20

Tickets are $15



Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (between Post and Geary), S.F.

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The first skit in Thunderbird Theatre's horrifying Night of Terror gives us a couple of burnt-out '60s rock stars, Donovan and Ringo Starr, who learn about a death-metal band called Grandpa's Bloody Diaper and, to save civilization, embark on a Tarantino-style killing spree with a sword and a semiautomatic pistol. The sword is explained by the fact that Donovan is now a kilt-wearing bipolar Scots nationalist obsessed with the lost race of "Atlanteans" (citizens of Atlantis, who may have built Stonehenge) and aligns his religious ideas -- and choice of weaponry -- with an ancient superior culture. As a finale, Ringo slips out of character and orders the skit's author, Brice W. Harris IV, onstage to complain about the script. This metatheatrical touch gives the audience hope that the members of Thunderbird know how bad the writing is, intend to do better with the next piece, and generally want to offer a nice evening of postmodern Grand Guignol. But no: The acting and writing never improve. Except for Brian Raffi's performance as a lunatic called "Aluminum Hat Man," the show is a terrific example of what Peter Brook meant by "deadly theater." One skit lacerates local TV news coverage by proposing a station that murders its own journalists for ratings. Another presents two prostitutes working an airport lounge who meet all kinds of freaks, including the Aluminum Hat Man, an armless bartender, and President Bush. The big finish is a thing about Razi Hara, or Beelzebub, getting conjured by teenage American Satanists. It's meant to be funny in a Mad TV kind of way, but it plays more like a giddy race to the bottom, with nobody chasing.

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