The young Turks at 7th House Theater have taken the DNA of the horror-musical Little Shop of Horrors and twisted it into a fresh mutant, creating a minimalist production focusing on the talents of the seven-actor company.
If you haven't seen (or don't quite remember) the original 1960 Roger Corman film — or Frank Oz's 1986 version of the off-Broadway musical — here are the basics: On Skid Row, far from the fashionable end of a city, schlub Seymour (Grant Sorenson) works in a flower shop with his co-worker Audrey (Maeve Moynihan). The failing enterprise is owned by Mr. Mushnik (played by five actors).
Their fortunes change when Seymour finds a "strange and interesting" plant. He dubs it Audrey II, in honor of the woman he secretly pines for, but he can't figure out what makes it grow. That changes one night when he's accidentally cut. The plant, as it turns out, thrives on blood.
At first, Seymour feeds it with his own blood, but its hunger grows.
A fitting new nutritional source appears in the guise of sadistic dentist Orin (David Darrow), who treats the original Audrey's affections with violence. Seymour's response has a far-reaching impact on humanity.
The music embraces the rock 'n' roll sounds of the late 1950s, led by singers Gracie Anderson, Liz Hawkinson, and Catherine Noble, who discard the original girl-group theme to become lab-coat wearing scientists.
Open Eye Figure Theatre doesn't lend itself to massive productions, so 7th House (directing the piece as a group) keeps it simple. An overhead projector expands the setting, which mainly consists of a white countertop and a few chairs. In place of the usual puppet for Audrey II, we get a series of increasingly bigger and bloodier boxes to represent the monster.
This leaves the talented company to provide the rest. Intimate staging quickly bonds the actors to the audience. The energy is palpable — and infectious.
Sorenson and Moynihan work on our sympathies as doomed young lovers. Sorenson plays the dweeb side of Seymour, adding plenty of heart. We get the same from Moynihan, who's completely honest in portraying Audrey's white-bread dreams, like owning a modest home in the suburbs. Their moment in the spotlight comes in "Suddenly Seymour," when they confess their feelings and the moment moves from hesitant confession to veritable show-stopper.
Darrow is fittingly nasty as the bad-ass dentist, playing the character as a 1950s rebel, quick to sneer at everyone and everything. He gets a pair of moments in the spotlight, first when he shares his fondness for inflicting pain, and later when his laughing gas habit becomes his downfall.
Little Shop of Horrors is a tight, energetic, and — above all — thoroughly entertaining show. I want to see it again. No, I want to see it 10 times.
Alas, that's not possible. The short run ends Sunday. Don't miss it.