Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night

by Adam Brinklow

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday May 27, 2013

Okay, promise you'll stick with us through this one. It'll be tough, but show a little faith.

Sometimes there's a show that not only leaves you at a loss for words but gives every indication that loss was the whole idea. Hence the world premiere of "Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night," the first offering from Cutting Ball Theater's new resident playwright and the last show of their 2013 season.

Is it good? Oh my, yes. But explaining why, in terms that will make anything close to sense, is like trying to explain what makes sugar sweet.

If you've ever wondered what would happen if Jean-Paul Sartre, John Waters and Rob Zombie got hammered and wrote a script together that none of them could remember the next day...well, let's face it, you're an odd duck.

But the good news is you'll appreciate playwright Andrew Saito and director Rob Melrose's story of Scarlett (Felicia Benefield), a prostitute who may be a kind of black widow serial killer (her customers invariably die, but whether she actually kills them is kind of up in the air) and her supposedly ailing but suspiciously healthy grandmother (Marjorie Crump-Shears), whose oddball medical condition causes her to birth to wild animals from her ear canal.

There's a menagerie of other baffling characters, a good deal of surgery and a fair degree of sex that makes you feel as if you, the audience, should be using some form of protection just while watching it.

Are you still there? Just checking. A lot of people probably clicked away after that ear thing. Their loss.

Lines that are even more baffling in context: "You have photos of cadavers tacked above your bed."

The really strange thing about "Krispy Kritters" (other than the unfortunate title, which is going to make it really tough to recommend this show to people while looking them in the face) is that, for as much as it sounds like the work of someone far too familiar with the extracurricular properties of certain brands of cough syrup, when you're in the theater it actually does all make a kind of sense.

Is it good? Oh my, yes. But explaining why, in terms that will make anything close to sense, is like trying to explain what makes sugar sweet.

It seems tempting (or at the very least convenient) to write this new play off for its strangeness, but the truth is that it has serious pathos and an underlying sense of humanity (battered though it may be). It's a work of flinch-inducing compassion and painful empathy, and it...it...

It makes you feel like you really, really need a shower.

Lines that are even more baffling in context: "Donate a kidney and I'll knock off 15%."

The close quarters of the EXIT on Taylor theater now look like a kind of X-rated Halloween funhouse that suggests a morgue, a hospital, a bad neighborhood and a no-tell motel (all the locations the action actually takes place in), but above all a Kafka-esque asylum. "Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night" is principally a story about people being trapped: by their circumstances, by their natures, by their decisions and most of all by each other.

The idiot morgue attendant (Wiley Naman Strasser) and the vindictive nurse (Maura Halloran) and the chimpanzee tattoo artist (Caleb Cabrera...and you can go ahead and read that last part again if you want, it's still going to say the same thing) engage in a kind of Grand Guignol carousel act of quiet desperation and meaningless reprisals and occasional kindnesses that everyone might have been better off without. Sometimes it's funny; often it's sad; constantly it'll make you squirm. And think.

Lines that are even more baffling in context: "I always feel so good when I get your blood in me."

In the end, "Krispy Kritters" (...seriously, couldn't they have called it anything else?) is affirming, in its way. You'd almost rather it not be, but it is. If you're feeling reserved this week, well, "Arcadia" is playing just a few blocks down. But if you want a show worth taking a chance on, this is the one that'll send you home feeling like you really saw something.

Oh, and if you happen to get there early enough to pick your seats, we recommend heading toward the back of the house. There are some things you just plain don't want to sit that close to.

"Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night" runs through June 23 at Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor St, San Francisco. For info and tickets, visit cuttingball.com

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