Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Shocktoberfest 16: Curse of the Cobra
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's reviews of The Creature and The Object Lesson

David Bicha
Since 1997 Thrillpedders have been presenting their unique brand of shock and fetish in their small theatre on 10th Street in San Francisco. As far as I know this is one of the few companies in this country that presents Grand Guignol fright plays that were so popular in Paris in the early 20th century.

This year, they are presenting four terror-filled plays for Shocktoberfest 16: Curse of the Cobra—in short, scandalous plays ranging from pure camp to grisly, ludicrous presentations. Once again there is a lot of blood, but it is so much fun to be frightened in this intimate theatre that seats only 49 persons.

The opening play is a little opus called Cracking the Vein by Andy Wenger and Damien Chacona. Three prospectors, Big John (John Flaw), Jasper (Andy Jasper), and Eustice (Damien Chacona), have struck it rich during the California gold rush days of 1849. So they haul their truck full of gold down to the local cat house where they decide to give some of the gold to the madam, Permilia (Bruna Palmeiro), in exchange for "a good time." However, two of the good time girls, Ellie (Dee Nathanial) and Devka (Katrina Kroetch), sneak a peek into the truck. What happens when all of this occurs, I leave to your imagination. Let's say a lot of blood flows.

The second play is a little four-minute musical penned by Scrumbly Koldewyn with John Flaw, J. Iness, Katrina Kroetch, Carol Ann Walker, Birdie-Bob Watt, and Dee Nathaniel. I only wish it could have been made a full length musical production, it's that good. There is a splendid little song called "Down at the Donner Party Diner" that is sort of a "Hee Haw" shit-kicking musical jamboree clarification of the horrifying Donner incident of the 1840s. Birdie-Bob Watt tries to serve hors d'oeuvres to the audience, but no takers.

The third play is a two-act drama about a father who is abusive to his son and daughter. It's called The Model House and was written by Rob Keefe. It starts in 1948 when the father, former Marine Sargent Roy (David Bicha), returns from the war. The second act advances 10 years when Roy's teenage children being mistreated by him, especially daughter Heidi (Birdie-Bob Watt) who is being sexually abused. What happens to Roy at the end? Heidi, who looks like Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed, does some pretty unimaginable things to the father. David Bicha is pitch perfect as the evil father while Birdie-Bob Watt rocks as Heidi. Russell Blackwood nicely directs this horror piece.

The fourth and final act is a musical extravaganza with Ziegfeld type costumes that are stunning, by costume designers Glenn Krumbholz, Dwight Overson, Tina Sogliuzzo, and Birdie-Bob Watt. The best of the group, The Revenge of the Son of the Cobra Woman has a great pop score by Scrumbly Koldewyn and is nicely directed by Noah Haydon.

Matt (Damien Chacona), who narrates the story, is adopting a puppy played vividly by Earl Alfred Paus. I swear I thought he actually turned into a real live puppy. There are many twists and turns that make little sense, so I decided just to enjoy the energy-driven dancing and singing and the spectacular costumes. Matt ends up on the island of the Cobras, where Noah Haydon sensually plays the Cobra Woman and David Bicha, all in green snakeskin, beautifully plays Prince Cobra. It all ends happily for everyone.

Bottom line here. There is over the top acting with inference and unequivocal sex scenes, energetic dancing choreographed by Noah Haydon, fantastic costumes, and fantastic props.

Shocktoberfest 16: Curse of the Cobra runs through November 21, 2015, at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-377-4202 or visit


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