`Cannibal’ Show Revels In Warped Wackiness

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
November 12, 1992

A man has sex with a hamburger. A drug addict accidentally snorts a line of cremated body. A woman makes love to office equipment. A man gets nuked in a microwave.

Welcome to “Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack,” where blood flies and vomit flows – theater’s own little freak show.

Regardless of taste, Chicagoans are eating “Cannibals” up. The grossly wacky socio-political comedy celebrates its second anniversary Sunday at the Torso Theatre. (It debuted Nov. 14, 1990.)

The plot is less important than the farcical mayhem.

Here’s the basic premise: It’s 50 years into the future and the world is in moral decay. People don’t have sex with each other, but with just about anything else. Cannibalism is encouraged to help alleviate overpopulation (playwright Billy Bermingham’s nod to Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”?).

Those who haven’t been eaten yet include an space traveler who looks like that bald guy from Right Said Fred, a cross-dressing female whose male unit hangs outside her pants and a couple of snooty terrorists who quiz potential victims to see how smart they aren’t.

So what’s all the fuss? If you combined John Waters’ films, Madonna’s Sex book and some Chicago Reader classified ads, you get the same effect, non?

Non.

“The thing that’s so great about `Cheerleaders’ is that it’s a play that takes chances but isn’t pretentious about what it’s doing,” says Sarah Flores, a 20-year-old actress-in-training. “It’s not the best play in the world and some of the acting is almost vaudevillian, but it’s fun. A lot of people laugh at flatulence jokes but don’t think it’s proper to implement them into `serious’ theater. In its own way, `Cheerleaders’ is very serious.”

For some, the play has become a weekend ritual. Bob Hanson has seen the play 10 times, with different actors. He has his favorites. His current fave is Alexandra Billings, who plays the vampy “holographic” whore Natasha.

“Natasha is just hysterical,” Hanson says, laughing. “The first time I saw her, I couldn’t believe it. She’s beautiful, funny and heartless. Just the way a woman should be.”

She’s also topless.

“That, too, God love her,” he admits.

With or without her top, Billings is a scene stealer. Her timing is flawless and her range diverse.

But when things get really hysterical, even she just lets loose and cracks up. It’s not very professional, but it is funny.

The show’s definitely not for everybody, especially the darker second half. Although a few patrons last Friday flinched at the full frontal male nudity, the splashing body fluids scored bigger on the shock-o-meter.

“I don’t deal well with spit gobs and squirting snot,” says Frances Saunders. “I know it isn’t real, but it just turns my stomach. I’m just thankful I’m sitting in the back. I would have died if any of that landed on me!”

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