At the fundraiser for Several Scenes Involving a Decomposing Corpse at Café Cleopatre, I found myself seated next to a decrepit, decaying mannequin in pearls, as disturbingly pornographic renditions of the Golden Girls played on a projector. The actual play, showing at the self-same venue through this week, delivered on my expectations as a bizarre blend of camp, sex, and dark humour.
Full disclosure: my roommate stars in this play. All the better, to watch her practice the lines of her climactic sex scene over breakfast, and regale me with titillating snippets in the nights leading up to the show (there is necrophilia, but could one expect any less?). Plus, the intermission features a corpulent man nailing an enthusiastic young woman to clown music. It’s an easy sell.
As the title would suggest, the play is a montage of scenes involving a corpse in advanced stages of decomposition. Said corpse delivers an impressive theatrical range, pulling off family pet, decaying grandparent or charismatic love interest – the dark, brooding, silent Jacob – with equal ease (“He sorta looks like Heath Ledger… post-humously, I mean,” love interest Tammy comments). In spite of the stubborn reticence of the corpse, characters approach the mannequin as a conscious entity, addressing it (him?) as a character in its (his?) own right.
“You know, there’s more to theatre than a bunch of loosely strung together jokes pertaining to fornication,” a despondent actor interjects towards the end. Fair enough. The vignettes and storylines of Several Scenes are unceasingly obscene. But while the elements are disconnected and often sexual, they are pretty consistently amusing.
In fact (and perhaps this reviewer’s own sick bent towards dark humour betrays her), there are seemingly infinite one-liners and shticks to make a decomposing corpse really quite hilarious. Writer and director Chris Wilding effectively conflates ironic, over-the-top campiness and black comedy, with barely-registered traces of angst bubbling to the surface.
There is the mandatory love story, of course. Born-again Christian Tammy and corpse Jacob experience the ups and downs of a burgeoning romance. In one scene she falls to her knees in anguish, weeping noisily. “Don’t you have anything to say to me?!” she screams at the prostrate Jacob on her bed. This goes on for some time, to great effect. (My friend later confided that her own romances strangely resonate with the girl’s hysterical retributions to a dead body. But I digress).
There are a couple of weak spots, as well. The lengthy Weekend at Bernie’s sketch in the second act wears thin, and Nurse Busty Stevens also drags on after the spell of her breasts dissipates. But if you’ve kept up with the drinking game plastered on the bar table, the last half hour will fly by, and the grand finale makes up for a slow second act (it certainly explained why the roommate’s parents weren’t invited). The second act also features perhaps one of the more amusing theatrical scenes I have witnessed, and not a single (live) actor onstage.
Several Scenes Involving a Decomposing Corpse is round 2 of a similar production from Wilding last year. Go to sit back, relax, and soak in the gratuitous sex and violence. And hey, so long as you’re at Café Cleopatre – stick around for the drag show after.
Several Scenes Involving a Decomposing Corpse continues August 25, 26, 28 at Café Cleopatre, 1230 St. Laurent. Doors open at 8 pm, shows start at 9 pm. For tickets call 1-888-688-4459.