Entertainment » Theatre

A Nightmare on Elf Street

by Robert Nesti
EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor
Friday Dec 7, 2018
Qya Cristal, Ryan Landry and Scott Martino in "A Nightmare on Elf Street," which runs through December 23 at Boston's Machine nightclub.
Qya Cristal, Ryan Landry and Scott Martino in "A Nightmare on Elf Street," which runs through December 23 at Boston's Machine nightclub.  

The big news to be had at performances of "A Nightmare on Elf Street," this year's holiday show by the Gold Dust Orphans, is that Machine (or the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts as it was cleverly nicknamed), will be going the way of the rest of the Fenway in the near future. The space has been sold for development, which means that this could be the last holiday show that this company will be presenting in the venue they have called their Boston home for 20 years.

It won't be their last, that will be "Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Thing," scheduled for the Spring; but if you can't wait till then to bid adieu to this surprisingly resourceful space, which has been an apt venue for the freewheeling theatrical antics that Ryan Landry and the Orphans put on, catch this inspired bit of lunacy that runs through December 23. (And if you know of a dive for them to move to, let them know.)

This one parodies those slasher movies that have persisted in culture since the 1980s, specifically the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise with its creepy, razor-fingered villain Freddy Kreuger. Here teen students at Elf Street Academy, where reindeer are trained to lead Santa's sleigh, are being terrorized by a Freddy Krueger-like killer who attacks while they sleep. The reason they are being targeted is explained in a video prologue (part "Mean Girls" and part "Carrie") in which a claque of mean girl reindeers, led by Velma Vixen (Scott Martino), bully and taunt Rudolph (Tim Lawton) because of his red nose pushing him over the edge (quite literally). Before he departs he puts a curse on his tormenters and their offspring. Flash-forward a generation and it is those offspring who are being sliced and diced in their sleep.

From here Landry weaves a sweet-tempered holiday fable that cleverly satirizes slasher movies with its busy plot. His villains not only includes Freddy Krueger but the more recent holiday ogre Krampus who is out to destroy Christmas and destroy Santa Claus whose head he wants served him on a plate. What this has to do with the curse of Rudolph is eventually resolved, but not before some nicely textured songs, bitchy dialogue, and some hilariously gory sight gags that get even more graphic as the body count mounts, which is pretty high for a holiday entertainment.

Of course lampooning slasher movies gives Landry ample opportunity to spoof his teen victims, who include the bad girl Vicki Vixen (Ruthie Fontanella), studious Dani Dancer (Taryn Lane) and Gloria Steinem-reading Claire Cupid (Kiki Samko) — each spot-on in their characterizations. As in slasher films, the suspense comes with wondering who is going to be the next victim, which in this case also includes the male students: chauvinist bro Dash Dasher (Sam Terry), ultra gay Percy Prancer (Matt Kyle), clean teen Chris Comet (Jeff Blanchette) and the often incomprehensible Blitz Blitzen (Sam Thornhill), whose motives may not be all that pure. As with the female peers, these actors nail their teen types.

The murders bring to the North Pole the famous, if inept detective Shirley Holmes (Ryan Landry) and his "just the facts" sidekick Dr. Jodi Watley (Qya Cristal), who does most of the investigation while Holmes bears the brunt of her withering one-liners. Landry revels in a performance that is part Benedict Cumberbatch and part Coral Browne; for her part Cristal plays it straight, saving her considerable vocal gifts until the end when she leads the cast in a resounding "Do You Hear What I Hear?" joined by the cast. (If there is a criticism to be made, it is why doesn't she sing more?)

As Velma Vixen, whose vicious prank sets the story in motion, Scott Martino is something of an over-the-top Real Housewife of the North Pole. Also as the show's costume designer he provides the cheeky, glitzy costumes, which includes a sleazy cocktail ensemble right out of a Jayne Mansfield's closet for himself. The show's playful look is enhanced by Windsor Newton's production design, dominated by a black-and-white mural that features familiar holiday personalities and cartoon figures in a crowded, witty configuration. The fast and furious direction by Kiki Samko starts on a comic high note and really never lets up, that is until Landry slows the show down to end the show with a welcome expression of holiday cheer.

As in other Orphan shows, there is clever use of puppetry — here two rows of mouthy elves, zany sound design (by Roger Moore) and goofy (and gory) props. One in particular provided the evening's biggest laugh when an attempt to throw it offstage failed, leading the actress to improvise. Her quick decision was both wildly inappropriate and hilariously funny, a joke that not only broke up the audience but the actors on stage. That moment really caught the irreverent spirit of the Orphans, for whom chaos offers invitation for a hilarious gag shared by all. And who can't use a communal laugh at this point in time?

"A Nightmare on Elf Street" continues through Sunday, December 23 at Machine, 1254 Bolyston Street, Boston, MA. For more information, visit the Gold Dust Orphans Facebook page.

Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].

Comments on Facebook