Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Batshit Crazy Blues

Once a writer convinces his readers (or audience) that a character is a certifiable whack job, anything can happen.
Depending on an author's skill and imagination, a character can develop a solid reputation for working people's nerves to the bone.

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As in her 2009 play, DRIP, Christina Anderson  is concerned with how a person's spirit makes a smooth transition between life and death. If she takes her time setting up relationships and the history of the African-American community in a small Southern town whose main employers are a pencil factory and a mining operation, no matter.

By the time Act I of Good Goods reaches its climax the audience will be on the edge of its seats. Spirit possession of a person's body tends to make that happen.

As Anderson's play begins,  Stacey Good (Yahya Abdul Mateen II) and his sole employee, Truth (David E. Moore), are locking horns over who is really in charge of the Good Goods store now that its founder, Mr. Good, has left town under questionable circumstances.

Truth has worked for Mr. Good since he was a kid. Stacey's father had planned for Truth to inherit the business by marrying his daughter (if his child was a girl). But the child turned out to be a boy and Truth found himself stuck with a shitty job, no wife, and no future.

Having recently returned to town to take over the Good Goods store, Stacey has been reunited with Wire (Armando McClain), the local messenger boy.  Stacey and Wire have always been attracted to each other but neither man has been particularly skillful at expressing his feelings.

Mollena Williams as Patricia in Good Goods (Photo by: Pak Han)

Returning to town with Stacey is Patricia (Mollena Williams), a nightclub comedian/singer who has been on the road for nearly a decade. Patricia and Wire are fraternal twins who were born on the opposite sides of midnight. While riding on the bus, Patricia sparked the interest of Sunny (Lauren Spencer), a runaway bride who has quickly fallen in love with her.

To put things in their proper perspective: Stacey is attracted to Wire. Unable to marry Stacey, Truth thinks he's attracted to Sunny.  Sunny, however, is attracted to Patricia and Patricia isn't really all that picky about who is attracted to her as long as they remain at her beck and call.

Stacey (Yahya Abdul Mateen II) and Wire (Armando McClain)
share a moment of tenderness in Good Goods (Photo by: Pak Han)

While these four lost souls try to figure out where their love and allegiance truly lies, Emekah (a young man working at the pencil factory) suffers a terrible industrial accident and bleeds to death on the way to the hospital. After they return home from trying to get Emekah to the hospital in time, Wire and Stacey wash the dead man's blood off of their hands. Having smoked a joint given to her by Patricia, Sunny wanders into the back room and, feeling thirsty, drinks from the bowl of water in which Stacey and Wire had just washed their hands.

Sunny (Lauren Spencer) discovers that the spirit of Emekah has
entered her body in Good Goods (Photo by: Pak Han)

You don't need a series of vampire movies to guess that something out of the usual is about to happen to Sunny. Upon reappearing, she seems possessed by the angry soul of Emekah (who has some unfinished business but is kind of titillated to find himself inhabiting a body with a nice pair of breasts).

The only way to get Emekah's spirit out of Sunny's body is to call on Waymon, (Anthony Rollins-Mullens), a local shaman who has the ability to let the spirit of the Hunter Priestess enter his body when necessary.

The exorcism conducted by Waymon has a stunning effect on the four troubled souls.
  • Feeling cleansed of Emekah's bad energy, Patricia and Sunny agree to see what it would be like to function as a couple. 
  • Finally understanding that he has no hope of any romantic involvement with Patricia, Truth agrees to go on the road with the two women as an assistant for Patricia's nightclub act.
  • Stacey and Wire check each other out to see if there is the possibility of a relationship between them. Waymon takes his payment for the exorcism and heads on home. 
  • Having been driven from Sunny's body, Emekah's spirit finds a final resting spot.
Anthony Rollins-Mullens appears as Waymon (who is channeling the spirit
of Hunter Priestess) in Act II of Good Goods (Photo by: Pak Han)

Marissa Wolf has directed Good Goods with a keen sense of the supernatural. Although much of Act I gets bogged down in exposition, once Emekah's spirit livens things up, Anderson's drama rapidly accelerates toward its climax. I was especially impressed by Lauren Spencer's ability to switch back and forth between the confused Sunny and the demonic  Emekah. Anthony Rollins-Mullens also scored strongly as the tambourine man who can channel the spirit of the Hunter Priestess.

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If you're the kind of person who loves family scenes in which a doting parent reads a bedtime story to a child, Love and Anger is about as far removed from The Princess Bride as you can get. Written by Brian Benson (who directed) and Michael Phillis, this hilarious 17-minute short picks up where Andy Warhol and The Cockettes left off and takes the art of grotesque storytelling to a whole new level.

Love and Anger takes viewers deep into a dark, skanky fairy tale starring the intrepid Vonda (Ladybear) and Cousin Wonderlette (Brian Benson) in a tale that is far too gruesome and ridiculous to lock up in a crypt.

Cousin Wonderlette and Ladybear in a scene from Love and Anger

Ladybear stars as Vonda, an overweight goth teenager who gets knocked up and tries to leave her bloody infant in a dumpster (look for an exciting new way to cut an umbilical cord). Her baby, however, is saved by the appearance of a rather clumsy fairy godmother who thought she had finished with her community service after safekeeping John Waters and Divine.

Cousin Wonderlette in search of her inner beauty

After years of being treated like garbage by her abusive mother, the fairy godmother tells Cousin Wonderlette (who snores like a pig) that true beauty lies inside of her and she should search out her inner truths. As she roams the countryside (hoping that someone will give her a vagina), Cousin Wanderlette falls into what seems like a mud puddle but is, in reality, an outdoor toilet inhabited by a hungry, bug-eyed coprophiliac with a strange, shit-eating grin.

Cousin Wonderlette lands in the Big Blue Giant's toilet bowl  where
she is greeted by a coprophiliac in a scene from Love and Anger

The mud shower she just received was one the gigantic bowel movements let loose from the Big Blue Giant, who is eventually coerced into giving Cousin Wonderlette his magic belt for protection.

The Big Blue Giant has a special present for
Cousin Wonderlette in Love and Anger

As Cousin Wonderlette continues along her bizarre adventure she encounters all sorts of fabulous creatures ranging from a green-haired forest troll to a fidgety wood nymph who can't stop snorting tree sap. The film's skag drag costume designs by Loretta Hintz become increasingly grotesque and fabulous (I adored the hot pink robot fish).

One of the many bizarre creatures in Love and Anger

You really have to see Love and Anger to believe it.  I guarantee you'll be laughing out loud all the way through Benson's outrageous short (which will be screened on June 23 as part of the Frameline 36 Film Festival).

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