Entertainment » Theatre

The Inside of His Severed Head

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday May 15, 2018
The Inside of His Severed Head

If you ever wondered what it would be like to see "Death of a Salesman" with vampires, then the new Lenny Schwartz musical, "The Inside of His Severed Head," will be sure to satisfy you.

For fans of the writer/director's work, which includes "Co-Creator," "Ben Minus Zoe Minus Ben," and "Accidental Incest," "The Inside of His Severed Head" delivers a healthy dose of good-natured zaniness, with some unexpected pathos on the side. What was most surprising is Schwartz's respectful treatment of the classic Arthur Miller story. Considering the title, I was expecting lots of blood and gore, but there really isn't much.

The Willy Loman we see here is not a salesman traveling from town to town, but instead a vampire hunter. Except things aren't quite as they appear and Willy's true identity is slowly revealed.

Willy is a tortured man who is haunted by his past and wants to prove himself to his family, which includes his gay son Biff (Ryan McKenna) and his supportive wife Lin (Victoria Paradis).

Willy is accepting of his son's sexual orientation and hopes Biff will follow in his footsteps. Biff, the former high school athlete, plans to run off to Texas with his lover Mopey (Derek Laurendeau) so they can operate a farm ("The Farm Song").

Meanwhile, a horde of vampires out for revenge aim to kill Willy, who takes his family with him to Alaska for one final showdown.

As Willy, Michael Thurber does an effective job bringing the character's massive insecurities to light. Thurber is a skilled actor and knows how to go for laughs while staying serious. He is also a fairly good singer.

The songs by composer Duncan Pflaster are pleasant and suit the action well.

Paradis and Thurber share a sweet duet, "Once Upon a Time."

Paradis also proves a talented vocalist on the ballad "Comfort in the Darkness."

Ryan Bedisee exhibited a lot of dark charm as Willy's long-dead brother, Uncle Ben.

Kevin Hernandez was wonderfully campy as Willy's leather-clad rival, Howard Van Helsing. Hernandez is a flamboyant force of nature and nearly steals the show from the other vampires.

Maureen Noel is the eccentric Vampire Three, who laments the fact her colleagues don't take her seriously: "Vampire Three."

The musical direction by Zachary Smallwood was competent and Chelsea Cook's choreography was imaginative.

After seeing "The Inside of His Severed Head," I am not entirely convinced "Death of a Salesman" needed the musical treatment. Willy Loman and vampires are an odd combination, but you have to admire Schwartz for trying. He is an artist who never plays it safe.

"The Inside of His Severed Head" isn't a complete success, but it has its incidental pleasures. Thurber and the other actors give it their all.

For serious theater mavens, it's worth seeing just for Schwartz's audacity in putting a unique spin on a classic. For everyone else, it is a blast of surreal entertainment guaranteed to stick in your mind for awhile.

"The Inside of His Severed Head" runs through May 19. Daydream Theatre Company. RISE Playhouse, 142 Clinton Street, Woonsocket, RI. For tickets, go to smarttix.com.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


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