It is precisely that oft-referenced voyeurism that we are told makes us slowdown when driving past a roadside accident in secret hopes of glimpsing dismemberment, death, or if we’re really lucky, the apotheosis of utter calamity, that Urban Death so successfully taps into and so skillfully invigorates. At its sites of disemboweling bloody murder, scatological infant smearing, or profane sexploitation of the most sacrosanct, our better angles ask us to cringe, while our fallen angels, like ever present Lucifer himself, ask us to want more, to permit ourselves a certain glee, birthright of the dark side we all inhabit and that inhabits us all. And as did consumers in the ageless traditions of gore before us, from the Medieval Macabre to the Grand Guignol of last century’s Paris, the audience of Urban Death dutifully obliges, even wants more, like the show’s sex -starved servants to that desire which refuses to stop, cannot stop, even at intersections with Death.
Evocative of the form, if not the skeletal substance of today’s high fashion show, Urban Death proceeds as a series of discrete, brilliant, and unabashed spectacles, partitioned by darkness and mostly up-tempo, crisp numbers, or in some instances, the incessant, saturating sound of the horror-film downpour replete with cracking thunder. The brilliant acoustics of both effectively whet our appetite for each next scene, hell-bent as all the others in reimagining this evening’s aesthetic, most ingloriously, most distastefully.
The intensely physical, phantasmagoric performances of the cast, brilliant use of props to often stunning visual effects, and the show’s economy of space and costume all successfully conspire to at turns wig us out, crack us up, scare the hell out of us, make us think, and nearly stupefy us in a state of marvel. And though the show’s smartly parsimonious dialogue is its one apology for our human baseness, you will be far from sorry for stealing up your courage and partaking of Urban Death.
Jake McDonald is an actor, and writer of plays, prose and theater reviews. He has performed off Broadway in New York and in theaters in Los Angeles where he now resides. His play, "A Christmas Story," was recently produced and played at the Lost Studio here in Los Angels last November and December.