TRUE TALES FROM UNRELIABLE SOURCES, Billy Goat Experiment Theatre Company, at the Broadway Armory. Demons, ghouls, and witches are running amok in Chicago–and it’s up to you to recognize the threat and stop them. That’s the premise behind Billy Goat’s latest ensemble-generated play, a series of three vignettes inspired by Japanese and Native American folklore and supermarket-tabloid tall tales. To the company’s credit, the three macabre acts echo one another remarkably well in theme–it’s establishing a consistent tone that proves problematic.
Billy Goat’s desire to subvert expectations by mixing and matching genres and media pays some dividends in the play’s second act, a cautionary fable about a domesticated housekeeping demon that seamlessly incorporates elegant shadow puppets and cheesy Hammer House of Horror histrionics. But the third act–an operetta based on the Cherokee legend of the murderous liver-eating Spearfinger–suffers from a problem that also plagued Billy Goat’s last production, Catching Out: the music seems almost comical in light of the grisly script.
By contrast, the first act is completely straightforward: playing crackpot guru Dr. Victoria Kane, Catherine Jarboe holds the audience in rapt attention with her goofy how-to seminar on trapping demons for fun and profit. The least experimental offering in True Tales From Unreliable Sources, it’s also the least forced–the only act here that doesn’t seem eclectic for eclecticism’s sake. –Nick Green