Review: ‘Blood, Sweat, & Fears: A Grand Guignol Sick Cabaret’ at Molotov Theatre Group

Critics do our best to stay rational and objective, to reflect on the goals and execution of a given piece of theatre, and thus evaluate the work on its own terms, with as little of our personal feelings interfering in our reaction to the show. Thus, we typically try to stay away from anything that could be described as a gratuitous, nuanceless rave.

David Dieudonne and Fabiolla Brennecke Da Silva in 'Tics.'' Photo by Tony Hitchcock.
David Dieudonne and Fabiolla Brennecke Da Silva in ‘Tics.” Photo by Tony Hitchcock.

In this case, I simply cannot say anything more nuanced than I loved this show. Loved it  Loved, loved, loved, loved this show! Loved the director’s (Alex Zavistovich with Assistant Director Elliott Kashner) concept of capturing the heavily emotive style of Grand Guignol, of transporting the audience to the world of Speakeasy, Jazz-era suspense, sex, and music.  Loved the shameless 1920s style costumes by Jesse Shipley and the freedom with which each of the amazing performers (male and female) flaunted their physical beauty and mental allure. Loved all three scenes in the play (translations by Richard Hand and Michael Wilson), from “The Lighthouse Keepers,” a tale of loss, sacrifice, fatherly love, and rabies on rocky New England shores, to “Tics – Or, Doing the Deed,” a farce on infidelity and bizarre health problems, to “The Final Kiss,” an acid-fueled tragedy of false forgiveness and eternal vengeance. Loved Jen Bevan’s vocal stylings and Jill Parsons’ piano connecting every scene and setting the tone with songs like “Anything Goes.” Loved Mallory Shear (Bella Donna) flirting shamelessly with everyone in the place while serving as the emcee (I believe I still owe her a drink … or two).

Brian Kraemer and Zach Brewster-Geisz in 'The Lighthouse Keepers.' Photo by Tony Hitchcock.
Brian Kraemer and Zach Brewster-Geisz in ‘The Lighthouse Keepers.’ Photo by Tony Hitchcock.

Loved the actors who embraced the declamatory acting style while still making every exaggerated expression completely convincing.  Loved every flawless moment, from Annette Mooney Wasno’s (Mme. Martin in “Tics”) unsubtle advances toward the dashing Monsieur de Merliot (Gray West), to Zach Brewster-Geisz (Brehan in “Lighthouse) powerfully felt rage against the world that took literally everything from him, to Fabiolla Da Silva’s (Jeanne in “Kiss”) horrified struggle to work through both disgust and guilt in her interactions with her badly scarred ex-fiance, Henri (played with equal parts subtlety and intense suffering by David Dieudonne).

Gray West and Annette Mooney Wasno in 'The Final Kiss.' Photo by Tony Hitchcock.
Gray West and Annette Mooney Wasno in ‘The Final Kiss.’ Photo by Tony Hitchcock.

Loved every performance on the stage, from the boldly physical work of Brian Kraemer (as Yvon in “Lighthouse”), to the adorably awkward earthiness of Lizzy Colandene (Venus in “Tic”), to the hilariously uncomfortable advances and reactions, respectively, of Katie Culligan (Mme. De Merliot). and Alex Miletich IV (Dr. Martin), during her seduction at the hands of the Doctor compromised by ailments of his own.

Loved all the production work.  Loved the levels, café seating, and discovery space designed by Mary Seng. Loved the tightly executed rhythm of the show by stage manager Sara K. Smith.  Loved the moody, period lighting by Pete Vargo.  Loved the makeup by Janis Heffron, which balanced historical style with modern toning, along with touches of gruesomeness (especially Henri’s acid burns).

Molotov Theatre’s Blood, Sweat, and Fears is at the DC arts Center until the end of the month.  See it.  You will laugh, you will cry, you will laugh at yourself for crying, you will be shocked and seduced, and you will thrill at every shocking, beautiful moment of French-styled sex and horror.

Running Time: 85 minutes, with no intermission.


Blood, Sweat & Fears: A Grand Guignol Cabaret plays through July 31, 2016 at Molotov Theatre Group performing at DCAC-(District of Columbia Arts Center) – 2438 18th Street, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.


  1. Well heck. Thank you! I also want to recognize Jennifer Restak as the Nurse in The Final Kiss, whose terrific understated performance is great fun to watch every night.


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