Shannen Doherty Shoots A Porno, the campy black comedy at Chicago's Torso Theatre, closes March 15 after a three-year run. Billy Bermingham made the decision to close the show because he has a new work ready: Crack Baby's Revenge, the deliberately sicko sequel to his long-running hit, Cannibal Cheerleaders On Crack.
Bermingham estimates Doherty, which has been down to a once-a week schedule for the past four months, will have played roughly 350 performances by its final date. "After running two shows for the last three years," Bermingham told Playbill On-Line, "I've come to realize there's no way I could keep three shows running. I was thinking of doing Shannen as a late-night Friday gig, but there aren't enough hours in the week to keep everything together."
Cannibal Cheerleaders On Crack, however, is still going strong; the show celebrated its 6th anniversary in November 1996. The new piece, Crack Baby's Revenge, or Mobius Dick picks up from where Crack I leaves off. Bermingham, producing artistic director of Torso Theatre (or, as he refers to himself, "the big cheese guy,") summarized the plot thus:
In the first play, Miss Agony turned into Mr. Happy and married Grody, who turned into a woman, so they're now a "Happy" family. Mr. Happy's organ is detachable, however, and speaks in an English baritone that can hypnotize its owner at will. The Happy couple then came home from the hospital with a baby, born of Natasha.
Crack II takes us further into this "post-post-nuclear, pre-op transsexual family." Grody's mother, whom he thought was dead, comes to visit. So does the late Dr. Finger, who is called upon to do further operations on the parents ("because of the gender confusion, they can't be sure what their baby is"). Once the couple figure out the child is a boy, they prostitute it to their landlord to pay the rent.
Bermingham adds that the show's subtitle, "Mobius Dick," refers to the play's structure as a kind of Mobius strip -- that is, (to quote Websters): "a one-sided surface constructed from a rectangle by holding one end fixed, rotating the opposite end through 180 degrees, and applying it to the first end," so that the paper's two sides are transformed into a single endless side. On a less intellectual note, the show also has lots of Punch & Judy-style comic violence. "It makes the first play look kind of tame," says Bermingham. "I like the whole world they live in. A future that says if we keep the present up at this rate, folks, this is what we're gonna have. I also like the characters a lot. I think we're gonna have a Cannibals III. The second ends with a Mexican stand-off where everyone's shot (everyone lives except Dr. Finger). It only takes the Baby's life up through age 9. Its young adult life could be done in `III,' as could Agony and Grody's midlife crisis.
Bermingham is currently in rehearsals for the April 3 first preview. "I think the actors are gonna be fine, but there's a lot of specialty props, short scenes, blackouts and music. We'll have to tech this sucker for at least two weeks. If it's not ready by the 3rd, we'll let audiences in on the 10th."
For those who want a double dose of Cannibalism, Torso Theatre has a double-feature of Cannibal Cheerleaders On Crack and Crack Baby's Revenge on Fridays and Saturdays. Not surprisingly, even the schedule is topsy-turvy: part two starts at 8 PM, followed by part one at 10:30.
For tickets ($12-$15) to Cannibal Cheerleaders and Crack Baby's Revenge at Torso Theatre on North Broadway in Chicago, now (seemingly) through the next millennium, call (773) 549-3330.
--By David Lefkowitz