The 2017 Halloween season saw chaos and havoc wreaked across the nation in a variety of forms, from punishing extreme haunts to 360-degree immersive productions, classic walk-through haunts to mind-bending virtual reality, and everything in between. Whatever form these experiences might have taken, however, none were quite as frantic, quite as jaw-dropping as the fever dream that was Dead Marionette Theatre.
Performing for only a handful of balmy October nights as part of Gasser Lounge and Psychopath Entertainment’s Carnevil: Harbor Invasion in Redondo Beach, California, Dead Marionette Theatre is near impossible to adequately put into words. At its core, sure, it’s a rock show, but it is to your typical concert what David Lynch films are to the scripted entertainment industry. It’s bizarre fun, the most confusing, surreal two hours you’re likely to spend anywhere on the planet.
Dead Marionette Theatre is anchored by two menacing drummers, horrific demon heads sitting atop their shoulders, looking for all the world like Daft Punk from the Upside Down. The show begins with a short prologue of sorts on a series of monitors, showing off the multimedia element of their show with an unsettling story about a gas mask-clad character known as The Sandman. His inclusion in the show, while brief and fleeting, served only to enhance the delightful confusion for which hapless audience members were in store. Immediately after, the drummers kicked into gear, and for the duration of the show, nothing was quite like it had been before.
To the left of the main stage, performers of all sorts enhanced the show atop a tiny platform. For one number, a masked gogo dancer donned the classic brown Ghostbusters jumpsuit, armed with a silly string-shooting proton pack for a heart-pounding rendition of the Ray Parker, Jr. classic while an inflatable Stay Puft marshmallow man moshed nearby (to say nothing of the paper-mache Slimer floating over the crowd). For another, Georgie-esque raincoats from It were busted out for a clown-fronted cover of Icona Pop’s “I Don’t Care”, while a mirror ball-headed bassist plucked away from the stage.
For all of their creative re-imaginings, though, Dead Marionette Theatre offers plenty of original content. For every Metallica medley and every seasonally requisite cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, there were fantastic original numbers, featuring the rhythmic pounding of the drummers and, near the night’s end, a demonic captain acting as lead vocalist, perfectly appropriate for a Harbor Invasion at the Redondo Beach Marina.
By the end of the night, the audience was covered head to toe in foam, the R/10 Social House thoroughly converted into a nightmarish funhouse befitting the clown’s mouth through which they had to enter. The question on everybody’s lips was simply, “What the hell just happened?” And with any luck, Carnevil: Harbor Invasion, and especially Dead Marionette Theatre, will return for the 2018 season, as going forward, no October will be quite complete without such a devilish assault on the senses.