review by Jennifer Wilcox
Coney Island Sideshow Stage
March 6, 2020
This opera is as downtown as you can get with all the joy of live music and cardboard cars.
Coney Island USA is known for the mermaids, but the off-season is alive and well behind the Freak Bar on the Coney Island Sideshow Stage. Dick D. Zigun and Nikos Brisco’s BLOODY BRAINS IN A JUKEBOX: A ROCK OPERA, directed by the award winning and Circus Amok founder Jennifer Miller and produced by Funhouse Philosophers, is the newest development on the Seashore. We start with a story that is reminiscent of a Russ Meyer film that is deliciously campy, sly and sexy. The music carries us on a sci-fi trip that weaves scene after scene together. Add staging that embraces the actors and playing space and you’ve got yourself a show that a Coney Island crowd will relish.
“Bloody Brains in a Jukebox” is a story of two doctors who have discovered the cure for cancer. On their way to celebrate with their peers, tragedy ensues. Reina De Beer as Dr. Audrey Hepburn is every bit the Funny Face beatnik she needs to be. She is a woman who steals an ambulance and as an audience member I was happy she did it! Aaron D. McMillan as Dr. Sidney Poitier has the job of a brain surgeon and he flourishes the knife with such pleasure that it was my favorite moment of the evening. Another favorite moment was the sexy fun time scene between De Beer and McMillan. Jennifer Miller handled the moment with joy and compassion. Both Satine S’Allumer (Dr. Jayne Mansfield) and Peter S. Sullivan (Dr. Jackie Coogan) are lovely and they really shined in the second act. Both Stateline Gas and Grill and Its High Noon allowed the two of them to play off each other and were probably my favorite songs of the bunch. Nikos Brisco’s music is full of high energy and sometimes seems unnatural, which plays wonderfully with the Jukebox that is manipulated Mery Cheung. I imagine she will have thighs of steal at the end of this run with the amount of movement she has animating the bulky Wurlitzer. The design of the brains by Kate Dale were very effective and the surgery scenes were particularly delightful.
I will note that I brought my 14 year old to this production. Because we’re talking about campy sexy themes, he got to enjoy the naughtiness as much as the adults. If he were any younger, I might have given pause, but as a parent, you know your kids- use your own judgment. I am a big fan of downtown theater and this opera is as downtown as you can get with all the joy of live music and cardboard cars. Much like the Lower East Side, Coney Island is its own little community. If you enjoy the theater below 14th street, you will not be disappointed taking the trip to check out the theater scene on Coney Island.