Shocktoberfest 2007: Maker of Monsters

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Through Nov. 17.

Tickets are $20-69; call 800-838-3006 or visit www.thrillpeddlers.com.

The Hypnodrome, 575 10th St. (at Bryant), S.F.

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It was intriguing to discover during the excellent recent revival of Sweeney Todd at the American Conservatory Theater that Stephen Sondheim based his play on an old script from the bloody Parisian Grand Guignol shock theater. Even though Todd was filled with gruesome murders and buckets of blood, it somehow didn't reach the levels of immorality in the Thrillpeddlers' new edition of its annual Shocktoberfest. During the four one-acts, audiences are forced to check any shred of political correctness and decency at the Hypnodrome's theater door. The first short, an original Guignol play first performed in 1929, pulls back the curtain to reveal a mad surgeon who sews animals and humans together to add freaks to the gallery of curiosities of a downtrodden carnival. Another short, "Google: Fetish," explores the ever-popular world of deviant Internet sex hookups (I never realized beautiful, scantily clad women could blow such thunderous farts!). There is some lighthearted Three Stooges–esque slapstick in the final play, but this material is not for the easily offended. I have to admit that while I did find myself shocked, I wasn't thrilled. The plays felt half-formed and didn't deliver the outrageous endings they were promising, but I do salute the Thrillpeddlers for keeping the depraved torch of Guignol alive.

 
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