“Sexy Dirty Bloody Scary does for theatre what Tom Waits does for music,” stated Jeremy Hechtman, the director of MainLine Theatre’s upcoming production. While this accounts for the pulp quality of the show, this would only be true if Waits pulled his verses out of a hat, or rolled a die to decided whether to begin with the chorus or the bridge. With a giant wheel of fortune not only overshadowing, but dictating the sequence of events, Sexy Dirty Bloody Scary promises to be a wild ride.
Written by Chris Brophy, SDBS was originally performed at the 1996 Fringe Festival. Brophy and Joanna Schmidt played all 15 characters, sometimes even trading characters with one another. Patrick Goddard, general manager of MainLine, found himself fondly remembering Brophy’s show while reviewing past Fringe plays in honour of the 20th anniversary of the Fringe Festival this past summer. He gave it “four highly appropriate title adjectives out of four”. It was at this point that Goddard and Hechtman decided to resurrect SDBS, but with a twist.
In the original production, the wheel of fortune only stood in the background as an overarching metaphor. This time, Hechtman and Goddard decided to literally use the wheel of fortune in the play to affect the narrative structure. Pushing what Goddard called the “theatrical insanity” of the original, they added the character of Blind Luck (played by Goddard himself). One part narrator, one part devil on the shoulders of everyone and literally blind, Blind Luck spins the wheel that decides which scenes will be played when.
All the 20 scenes of SDBS will be played, but in varying orders each night. Yet, Hechtman explained that the story is still comprehensible: the characters are clearly defined and each scene has its own arc. So while a certain narrative normalcy is willingly sacrificed, nothing is lost in this jumble of scenes. Hechtman described the show as pulp fiction, a reference to the pulp magazines that were popular throughout the early half of the 20th century. These magazines told lurid fictional stories, usually involving sex and murder. Yet the focus of the show is less on what happens, and more on when it happens. Hechtman emphasized the random quality of the play, saying, “the perfect night will be the one where the first thing to happen is the intermission. It was just too good to pass up.”
While this production of SDBS has five actors instead of two, they are not given any chance to relax. Hechtman described the rehearsals as more drill-like than anything else; working bits thousands of times, actors are kept constantly on their toes, ready to jump into a scene at a moments notice. Like the audience, the actors have no idea what is coming next in SDBS. This “keeps [the show] fresh, and forces the actors to be in the moment” says Hechtman, suggesting that the actors remain terrified throughout the performance. It’s this energy, and not the plot, that drives the show. The rush from the spontaneity replaces the suspense of a linear narrative.
SDBS draws from the wealth of theatre that 20 years of Fringe has to offer. Its re-visitation brings new life to the original, just as the original offered a fresh look at the pulp fiction genre. Hechtman, who saw the original SDBS just after graduating from Concordia, can see how the production would intrigue any student who is attracted to the lurid world of pulp fiction, or is drawn to the seedy underbelly of the city. On this same note, it seems the show is ideal for anyone who enjoys the rush of the unexpected, as each Sexy Dirty Bloody Scary performance is literally a gamble.