Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Well, I have a solution. Something to take your mind off current horrors and replace them with different horrors. Specifically, horror films. More specifically, a parody of horror films. Even more specifically, a musical parody of horror films based on a parody of other horror films. Sound like fun? Then get yourself to Sqream, currently playing at San Francisco's Oasis nightclub in a production by D'Arcy Drollinger, Pop Culture Immersives, and Oasis Arts.
I've never been a big fan of the horror genre. But, even though I have seen precisely zero of the films parodied in Sqream (mostly the series of Scream films, but others, as well), I still laughed often–and occasionally uproariously–at the antics of the cast of adults playing (mostly) teenagers with a serial killer on the loose. Populated with drag queens, drag kings, dancers and actors, Sqream is nonstop campy R-rated fun.
As with the amazing The Rocky Horror Show staged at the Oasis, this performance is immersive. The audience is divided into three groups for entry to the venue. You buy your tickets for one of the three times–6:30, 6:45, or 7:00–and at the appointed hour enter into the front bar where Drew Buriedmore (D'Arcy Drollinger) is home all alone when the phone rings. After several sassy rejoinders to the caller, Drew is threatened by the killer, who promises to gut Drew unless she can remember the lyrics to several 1990s hits. (The show is sort of a tribute to '90s pop and R&B, with dozens of songs featured and parodied.) When she fails, Drew is summarily dispatched by the masked killer, and the audience then moves into the main room, with its thrust stage, go-go platforms, and busy bar. While you wait for the next group to enter, you can watch the dancers, the video screen on stage, or even play a round of Twister with your fellow audience members.
There's not much of a plot here–teens get dispatched, the killer(s) is/are discovered, songs are parodied–but the show is chock-a-block with bawdy humor, outrageous costumes, and lots of lots of '90s references, including a delightful dig at how Blockbuster worked: you go physically to a store, choose a movie, pay your $3.99, keep the movie for only two days or risk late fees, then physically go back to the store to return it. For an audience used to streaming, this elicited groans of recognition/sympathy.
Sqream was written by Michael Phillis, who is currently appearing in American Conservatory Theater's intriguing and thought-provoking Big Data and was stunning in Ray of Light's production of The Rocky Horror Show in the Oasis. As directed by Jason Hoover, Phillis's script moves along relatively briskly, though excising a few minutes of screaming and mugging would do no harm and likely improve the overall flow.
The cast, to a person, seem to relish the chance to play such outsize characters. D'Arcy Drollinger seems especially to love their role. "I don't have a car–I'm a teenager," their character says, then shoots a death ray at the audience for laughing. Trevor March, who plays Billy Boyfriend, has the best voice of the cast, a belting tenor that's a perfect fit for the '90s tunes. Coco Merrell plays the virginal Randall with a geeky exuberance that is infectious.
But perhaps the best part about Sqream is that it's so immersive and engaging that it makes it easy to forget all the horrors outside the theater.
Sqream runs through March 23, 2024, at The Oasis, 298 11th Street, San Francisco CA. Performances are Thursdays Saturdays with staggered entries at 6:30, 6:45 and 7:00. Tickets are $45-100. For tickets and information, please visit www.sfoasis.com.