Children of the Damned Corn
The Coterie Theatre
I was looking forward to this play ever since the Coterie announced this season's offerings. Although poking fun at horror movies is not a unique idea, writer and director Ron McGee made the perfect choice in penning this script using iconic B-movies and memorable characters.
Set in the 1950's, sugary sweet couple Milt and Betty find themselves stranded in Gatlinville, Nebraska after a car accident. The town, home to an old creamed corn factory, is deserted save a few surviving adults. Crazed child leader Malaki has taken over the factory with his cult-like group, whose white haired, red-eyed followers aim to kill anyone that gets in their way.
If you're looking for a night of fun, the script alone will do you good. Several nods to well-known fright films are peppered throughout the scenes and McGee's laugh factory of a show produces on-the-spot humor for both adults and children alike. (Yes, even some jokes that only the adults will get. We'll tell the children when they're older.)
Most of the lead actors, especially Pete Weber, Teisha M. Bankston, B.J. Allen, Martin Buchanan and Kimberely Queen, do a fine job in delivering the script's corny (couldn't help it) humor and campy melodrama. Bankston and Buchnan especially won me over with their smart comedic timing and ability to connect with the audience. McGee's large cast of child actors appeared to relish their roles. Despite a few opening night hesitations with line delivery, entrances and exits, the kids provide excitement and movement to the play - they are what the audience looks forward to seeing on stage. I would love to say more, but I won't spoil some of the fun for you. Let me just add that the costumes (by Megan Turek) and highly anticipated massacre scenes are a delight. Kudos to the playwright-director for orchestrating this ensemble (with two child casts!) into what became the highlight of my fall theatre experience. Don't let the words "corny" and "campy" that I use in this review drive you away from seeing this spectacle.
McGee and Scott Hobart, co-set designers, did a marvelous job with constructing the corn factory. It's just so much fun to look at – the child in me wanted to explore the set. I also delighted in the sections of cornfields that the children moved around the stage. Art Kent should also be mentioned for creating a spooky atmosphere with his lighting design.
"Children of the Damned Corn" will be performed through Oct. 30 at the Just Off Broadway Theatre. Make sure to look up directions on the Coterie's web site instead of relying on your GPS. (My GPS was confused.) Children under 13 will not be admitted to the show.