'TEDx Talks: The Murder Room,' next play in Michael Mizerany's 'Thrillogy'
Choreographer-turned-playwright Michael Mizaerany is crafting a trilogy of short horror plays called a "Thrillogy." Tonight he kicks off a four-performance run of the middle play called “TEDx Talks: The Murder Room.”
Mizerany’s Thrillogy began with "A Twisted Bargain," a reimagining of the infamous 1924 Leopold-Loeb murder case and will conclude with an over-the-top slasher comedy called "Die Already!". For the middle play "TEDx Talks: The Murder Room," he crafted a loving spoof of Stephen King’s "Misery." But this time it’s an actor rather than a writer who’s kidnapped by a crazy fan.
"An actor is kidnapped and chained to a bed, and he has to perform a short script, and he has to give the performance for his life, basically," Mizerany said. "And as they do the play, he finds out some disturbing, unseemly facts about what transpired in that room in the past."
The play also throws in references to M. Night Shyamalan's "Split," in which the kidnapper had multiple personalities.
Phillip Magin plays Paul Foster, an Emmy winning actor in a not-so-acclaimed daytime soap, and Stephen Simpson plays his psychotic captor.
Mizerany has been a fan of horror since a young age.
"I was the gay boy in the Catholic school, and so got teased a lot," Mizerany said. "Jason Voorhees and Freddie Kruger and Michael Myers were wonderful stand-ins for homophobic bullies, dismissive parents and hypocritical priests. And so, I would vanquish the bullies. I was the final boy or final girl, and then I lived to tell the tale."
Each play in the "Thrillogy" has a different tone. "A Twisted Bargain" was rooted in true crime, "TEDx" introduces a comic take on the genre, and then "Die Already!" takes the slasher formula to outlandish extremes.
For "TEDx," Mizerany wanted to send up horror tropes ranging from the killer explaining himself to people not being dead to jump scares.
What's amusing about Mizerany is that while he adores the horror genre he frequently covers his eyes and screams when watching a horror film. That is one reason why I enjoy sitting next to him at a horror movie because he gives the best reactions. But, in writing his horror plays, he has no mercy in trying to elicit jumps and gasps from his audience.
For "TEDx," Mizerany hired fight choreographer Anthony Ayala to help stage the multiple physical encounters between the kidnapper and his victim. Ayala wanted to find humor in how some of the action plays off of horror tropes, but he also wanted the confrontations to look good and be safe for the actors. That means slowing things down in the fight choreography.
"There needs to be time for people to recognize what's happening on stage," Ayala said. "I think in real life, people are going at it as fast as possible. But to us as an audience, we need to be able to see what's happening, a second to process information because obviously seeing someone get punched in the face is going to be a lot of information in a story. And a fight scene is a little complicated in a sense, especially in a play like this, where there's a lot of violence. People need to see these big moments, kind of soak them in, and then see the next big moment soak them in. You wouldn't have two actors talking over each other constantly without the audience being able to hear."
Mizerany’s "Thrillogy" continues tonight with its middle play, "TEDx Talks: The Murder Room" at the Light Box Theater at Liberty Station.