NEW YORK CITY, NY — After the idea and the writing and the pandemic, after the read-through at Icehouse Arts in Narrowsburg, Joel Greenhouse’s “Twisted” is taking the stage in Manhattan.
The play/musical/homage-to-1960s-exploitation-films opens on Saturday, September 30 at Theater for the New City (TNC).
The show is written by Greenhouse, who lives in Yulan, and is directed by Joe John Battista, with music by Peter W. Dizozza and choreography by Sevin Cevike.
It stars Penny Balfour, Brian Belovitch, Robert Z. Grant and Maude Lardner Burke.
B-movie makes good
You know the images: the screaming blonde, the lurid calligraphy, the monster. They’re staples of B-movie posters.
Greenhouse added an alligator in trousers, and the concept started taking shape.
The blonde is a B-grade actress—“Make that a Grade-Z actress,” he said. She’s a tad over the hill, maybe. There’s a boyfriend, who is dead. There’s the actress’ daughter, who has been blamed for his murder and is languishing in an insane asylum.
Until she’s not, and that’s when the fun begins.
But first: Yulan?
“My husband, Richard Cardillo, had a house here for about 20 years,” Greenhouse said. And as many did, they moved there full-time in the pandemic.
And at NACL in Highland Lake, Greenhouse encountered filmmaker/educator Ron Littke of Icehouse Arts.
“He seemed familiar,” the playwright said. “Turned out we worked in the same comedy group in the late ‘70s.”
Littke told him about Icehouse’s play-reading workshops, where playwrights can bring work in, read it to the other writers and get feedback.
“Twisted” had been kicking around for some time, but “I wanted to try out new scenes,” Greenhouse said.
So he did a read-through, got the feedback—and now the show is ready.
Back to the story
Spoilers are bad. We’re trying not to spoil. But there are so many hat-tips to those B movies, so many jokes, that it’s hard not to share a little.
There’s a religious cult. There are bad ‘60s dance moves. There are maybe five songs.
As Greenhouse and friends played with the plot and characters, he thought, “It would be funny if this one sang something.”
So that one did
“Twisted” went into production pre-pandemic, but you can’t keep something like this down. The sheer silliness of the plot kept it alive.
“People kept asking me if I was going to do something with the alligator play,” Greenhouse said.
And the alligators?
That would be a spoiler. Sorry.
Exploiting the exploitation films
For those too young to remember, exploitation movies were “seedy movies played at drive-ins,” Greenhouse said. “The audience was teenagers. Monster movies, very low-budget and sensational.”
“Squirrel Women from Venus.”
OK, he made that one up. But there are plenty to choose from if you want a taste before the play.
“William Castle cranked out a bunch in the 1950s-1960s,” said horror-movie blogger and River Reporter writer Bill Fleck. “And let’s not forget the stuff Roger Corman did, both with and without Vincent Price.” And “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” “I Was a Teenage Frankenstein.”
Even alligators got involved, although they likely didn’t sing, dance or join cults.
“One of the first was ‘The Alligator People’ (1959), featuring Lon Chaney Jr. as a drunken, one-handed gator hunter,” Fleck said.
“Twisted” takes elements from such classics and creates something new. Something for everyone, sometimes offensive. Entertaining for the teen in most of us.
“There used to be something called Ridiculous Theatre,” Greenhouse said. “Anything goes, over the top, ‘We don’t care if we offend you. Good.’ It was all tongue-in-cheek.”
Much like “Twisted.”
“It’s gonna be a lot of fun,” he said.
Previews of “Twisted” begin Thursday, September 28. The official opening is September 30, and the play will run until Sunday, October 15.
TNC can be found at 155 First Ave.
Learn more about “Twisted,” including details about the cast and crew, and purchase tickets at https://twistedshow.com/