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Tis the season for Thrillpeddlers’ bucket of blood “Annual Extravaganza of Terror & Titillation.” Shocktoberfest 17! - This year's evening is the perfect window for the Halloween season here in the San Francisco Bay Area. This hysterical, very camp bloodbath is an evening of short plays and stories that will scare the giggles out of anyone. The Thrillpeddlers has been part of the SF Theatre scene since 1997. Their cave like setting at the Hypnodrome under the downtown skyway on 10th street is now hosting SHOCKTOBERFEST PYRAMID OF FREAKS through Nov 19th. Creative Director, Russell Blackwood, is one of the few to stage Grand Guignol fright plays that were popular in Paris in the early 20th century.

The first story or event of your evening is the entrance to the Hypnodrome stage, we enter the venue and a kind “ghoul” shows you to your seat, it is an adventure in itself, and fun. Actor, musician, musical director, and the amazing voice and talent of John Flaw opens the evening with his band the Vagabondage, a four-piece group of guitar, fiddle, upright bass, and accordion. Vagabondage’s old timey, funky keen tunes set the mood and take us to the first body drop.

Artistic Director, Russell Blackwood, explains this 17 year tradition “The Hypnodrome is a purpose-built horror theatre - Shocktoberfest is responsible for having revived more plays from the infamous Le Theatre du Grand Guignol than any other producing entity. Most of these scripts were presented here for the first time ever in English adaptations - the one-act plays with revivals of other bloodcurdling and erotic entertainments as well as premiers of new works devised by Thrillpeddlers’ resident playwrights”.

THE HAUNTED HOUSE is the first story A Classic Grand Guignol Thriller by Marc Bonis-Charancle. English version by Richard Hand & Michael Wilson. It is a fairly classic haunt and blunder as two couples sneak into a large empty home that turns out to be haunted. Directed by Blackwood the cast includes James Jeske (Fulbert); Kai Brothers (The Lawyer); David Bicha (Mr. Avenel); Rochelle Urban (Mrs. Avenel); Eric Johnson (Mr. Ravan); Zelda Koznofski is (Mrs. Ravan and Natalie Demchenko as Genevieve.

The couples attempt to party and drink champagne. At the stroke of midnight is the first scream from a ghost who committed suicide. They hear nothing, Fulbert, a scruffy old man who says he is the owner of the house, a wild woman then appears, who Fulbert says is his mad wife Genevieve. It all leads to violence. Kai Brothers, Jeske, and Demchenko are stylistic as Crystal Why sings "Mister," with music and lyrics by Cab Covey. Its haunting and entertaining.

THE HELLGRAMITE METHOD is based on an episode from the Twilight Zone, and becomes more of a soap horror. This was adapted for the Thrillpeddlers by original writer, William Selby. Dan Foley plays a convincing drunk, Miley Judson, and his stage timing as he goes from a lush to a reformed drunk. CJ Smith plays Dr. Eugene Maddox, who created a new titular method for getting people to beat their alcohol addiction, his pitch includes; once you start his method, “There is no going back.” The wonderful comic, Culpability Brown, plays a lost drunk at the bar to end the story who does the best lush attempting to light a cigarette. The bit is sad and funny and makes this second short play meaningful.

DEMON TRAIN TO SODOM with music and lyrics by the backbone of Thrillpeddlers, Scrumbly Koldewyn, brings home the Shocktoberfest headline of terror and titillation. The superb, Noah Haydon, directs this train to naughty. The brash and talented John Flaw as “The Preacher” and the evil Demon take us to a gory orgy of murder and blood. Local favorite, David Bicha, is at his Thrillpeddlers best as Sitri the demon Prince of Lust. Bicha is classic on the Hypnodrome stage always bringing the debauchery to a glorious height of cock, ass and fun. With a cast of almost 14 in Glen Krumbholz awesome costumes, in a Demon train designed by VinC to take us on a ride to Mother Nature’s Farmstand where blood and organic stench is off the hook.

A stand out in this colorful cast is Earl Alfred Paus as Michael who takes all the erotic subtext that very few could endure, he also has an excellent voice for many of the original songs. SODOM is the highlight of the two hour show, and it includes most of the talented members including Alix Feinsod, Kai Brothers, Jason Wade, Rochelle Urban, Cindy Emchy, Sean Winold, Crystal Why, CJ Smith, James Jeske, and Sean Malroy.

PYRAMID OF FREAKS ends the evening with a noir theme turned wrong. This world premiere written by Rob Keefe is also directed by Haydon. David Bicha is back, cast as a killer circus strong man, Tozzini, in a carnival of cannibalism. Paus returns in this story as a dog human along with Alix Feinsod who are both likable. Dan Foley plays a detective trying to get to the bottom of all the missing people that Tozzini uses for his gourmet of blood . Alligator Boy does his best to hide the hijinx, played by Eric Johnson, he is in a green alligator skin biker jacket including a tail designed by Krumbholz and Carol Ann Walker. Cameron Eng who is always a welcome player on the Thrillpeddler stage plays the mysterious Freako, and is always charming.

Blackwood designed the sets that include the Hypnodrome stage ornaments and curtains. The props for any SHOCKFEST is always messy with blood or dildos created by Andy Falkner and Yusuke Soi. Nicholas Torre’s lighting design is always expansive with strobes and back lights that keep the fog machines haunting. The two hour evening ends with THE LIGHTS-OUT SPOOKSHOW FINALE - created by Nicholas Torre performed in the dark this five minute ballet of spooks, sounds and lighting magic spook show with black light bats, faces, witches and goblins. It’s all fun and kept the sold out weekend crowd howling and screaming in their seats.

The production team for this year's Shocktoberfest 17 is always the best creative minds at Thrillpeddlers. All fantastic costumes by Glenn Krumbholz, and Carol Ann Walker, with wigs by Jenna Kimberlin. Amazing heads, arms, spears, testicals and props by the creative Yusuke Soi and Andy Falkner, mixed with the video projections of Mista Wa and lighting by Nicholas Torre. This years FREAKS are classic good fun and even after the 31st, this crew will keep you smiling and wanting more.



Pyramid of Freaks

Directed by Russell Blackwood

and Noah Haydon

Music and Lyrics by Scrumbly Koldewyn

Music Director John Flaw

and Scrumbly Koldewyn

Thrillpeddlers, at The Hypnodrome

Through - Nov. 19, 2016

Thurs., Fri. & Sat. - 8:00 pm

The Hypnodrome

575 10th St., San Francisco,

CA 94103. (Bryant & Division Streets.)

415- 377- 4202

Photo's by David Wilson

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