Saw Company One's Shockheaded Peter at the Modern on Friday night and ... whoa.
For starters, the Steven Bogart-directed production is the most visually dazzling thing I've seen from C1. Taken together with their entirely different yet equally impressive production of The Flick in the same house not long ago, Shockheaded Peter suggests that it's really time to find the troupe a regular home outside the confines of the BCA basement where they usually perform. Bogart shares credit with set designer Michael Anania, costumer Miranda Giurleo, puppet-and-mask maker Eric Bornstein and others. But this show, with its fold-up set and crazy creatures, is literally something to see.
If you liked Bogart's Cabaret at Oberon a few years back, I'd draw this connection: the decadent-and-worse Europeans in that show were probably warped in childhood by having Heinrich Hoffman's The Struwwelpeter read to them at bedtime. Hoffman's collection of very-bad-things-happen-to-misbehaving-children tales forms the basis of this show, originally created for the stage by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott with songs by the Tiger Lillies. Bogart brought in Walter Sickert and his Army of Broken Toys to make the music, has choreographed the whole thing to a T and come up with something quite entertainingly over the top and dark, dark, dark.
I agree with most of what Don Aucoin wrote in the Globe. This is part Grand Guignol, part Kafka, part drunk-Disney-animator-revenge-fantasy. The tale of poor Shockheaded Peter, his terrible parents and his return from the crawlspace is woven through seven or eight other largely wordless vignettes, fairy tales with unhappy though fitting endings. Sickert sits with a keyboard and guitar at the side of the stage, a big, black-clad presence growling out songs like the love child of Dr. John and Rob Zombie. Most of the talking is done by Alexandria King (top picture, by Paul Fox via C1) as the MC, whose interesting, multilevel presence simultaneously suggests a slinky, devilish carnival barker luring us in and a past or possibly current victim warning of the cruel fates that await us. Standout among the others is Brooks Reeves (bottom picture, also by Paul Fox) as Peter's craven dad. A few moments could be a little more linear, perhaps, but this one will stick in your head.
Do not miss.