“Slasher: A Horrifying Comedy” (presented by University of Dayton Theatre Program at UD’s Boll Theatre) began with a young woman delivering the usual request to silence our electronic devices and refrain from eating in the theater, with an added warning for those in the front seat: they had unwittingly chosen the “splash zone,” and were advised to move back to avoid the spattering of stage blood.
Despite this, the blood kept very nicely on the stage for the preview (maybe a little too nicely, based on the introduction). A play about the makings of a horror film, or rather the familial controversy behind it, “Slasher” certainly has its moments reminiscent of typical horror movies (most notably the meat hook). However, unlike most horror films, these people can actually act. The character portrayal is what really made this play, and there were some phenomenal scenes that showcased the talent of the students. An easy example is Kiersten Manifold, who plays no less than nine different characters throughout the show, ranging from the Mormon at the door to the skating waitress at Sonic. Another notable example is the interaction between the director of the film, Marc Hunter, and the lead, Sheena McKinney (played by Patrick Lillis and Julia Puscas), is nothing short of astounding. The sexual tension that develops from them is both awkward and chilling as we move throughout the play, especially during the last scene. Hannah Blosser made a stellar debut as an actress, playing the role of Frances McKinney (Sheena’s lazy, feminist, and deranged mother). The supporting roles of Jody and Hildy, played by Jonathan Golab and Jenna Gomes, gave the play a certain charm and realism. Director of the production, Linda Dunlevy, said that this show required intelligent acting, and that she was grateful to have such people to work with. Linda has been with the University of Dayton for the past 18 years, and is also involved with the Human Race Theater Company and the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, which are both local organizations.
I was privileged to be a part of the set construction team. Remember when I said the play began with “turn off your cell phones”? I lied. In reality, the play began with auditions on Monday, August 29th. From there, hundreds of hours were spent not only practicing lines, but also designing and building the set, selecting costumes and props, and organizing lighting and sound. The special effects proved to be most difficult. That blood I mentioned? Donna Beran and her team tried about every recipe they could find to figure out which ones to use. Not to mention Kiersten’s constant costume changes. Due to the cinematic nature of the play, the scene changes themselves needed to be quick and fluid. This ruled out a number of set designs, according to Darrell Anderson. Ed Larkin, stage manager, noted that he was pleased with how the lighting turned out, despite all the issues with organization. Because I was completely unfamiliar with the play until I saw it, I have to say seeing how the different sets were used for each scene was rewarding.
The play itself is short, clever, funny, and very well done. However, due to the adult nature of the play, I would suggest a babysitter.
Show times are the 21st and 22nd at 8pm, the 23rd at 7pm, and the 27th, 28th, and 29th at 8pm. Location is the University of Dayton’s Boll Theater in J.F. Kennedy Union. For tickets and information, call the KU box office at 229-2545.