After traveling around the country for the past month, the T-rex made of chicken wire and paper mache is a little worse for wear. He's crumpled around the edges, his innards held in with tape and a prayer.
In a few hours, he'll be completely destroyed. This is his last hurrah. There will be no prisoners tonight.
This is the last production of Jurassic Live: Dino Action Show, the victory lap for the Old Murder House troupe at the conclusion of their first nationwide tour. For the dozen or so members of the cast and crew, this performance at the State Theater in Austin, Texas is the grand finale to long journey…a journey that began five months earlier when director Sam Eidson decided to bring Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park to the stage.
When Sam founded Old Murder House several years ago, it was just him and a handful of friends performing recreations of classic blockbusters on their front porch for a handful of friends. Then came their cardboard and duct tape production of Independence Day, which found the troupe performing on an industrial loading dock. Then the Christmas double feature of Home Alone and Die Hard, performed in an empty lot in the freezing cold. The trendy Highball restaurant hosted their productions of Back to the Future and RoboCop (both of which nearly burnt the place down thanks to their frequent use of pyrotechnics). And then came their most ambitious project: Aliens On Ice, which (literally) put James Cameron's Aliens on an ice rink. There's a whole story behind that one, available in two parts.
And with that, they had done all they could do in the Austin scene. It was time to take their stagebound blockbuster re-enactments on a national tour…and what better film to tackle next than one every movie buff in their twenties knows by heart? After raising their funds on Kickstarter, they set off on a ten city, twelve performance tour, taking them from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between. Sam promises me that, outside of a few too-small venues and the usual travel bickering, it was a satisfying (if appropriately whirlwind) journey.
I've been following Old Murder House for years now, so I'm completely biased, but I love these guys. They are truly something special, their work simultaneously post-modern and old fashioned, their style childish but sophisticated. It goes beyond the basic hilarity that is inherent with seeing one of the biggest movies of all time recreated by a handful of guys wearing wigs and lugging around props made of cardboard. It's in the details. The way the actors capture their characters through dead-on imitations, not only getting the voices right, but the little tics, those odd moments that may not seem like major things, but when you recognize them, you're hit with a nostalgia bomb unlike any other.
These guys, like you, truly love the movies they're adapting. Even when they diverge from the source material (and they do so in frequent, usually R-rated busts), it's done in a way that complements the film. Watching an Old Murder House production is like your late night movie discussions, complete with alcohol-fueled tangents, brought to life.
There's a moment in Jurassic Live where Tim interrupts a dramatic moment between John Hammond and Ellie Sattler, decides that their discussion about personal responsibility and flea circuses is boring and fast forwards through the scene. It's one of the funniest moments in a show filled with funny moments, but anyone who literally grew up wearing out their VCR with Jurassic Park can relate. Trust me: we all fast forwarded through that scene when we were younger.
In fact, Jurassic Live has more bizarre tangents from the main storyline than any other Old Murder House show yet. While RoboCop and Aliens On Ice each had a musical number, Jurassic Live has three. Seeing Alan Grant lead the entire cast in a performance of "Cool" from West Side Story is just plain amazing. When our heroes are trapped by raptors in the climax, they turn to the audience and ask for them to chant for the T-rex to rescue them in the same way that audience applause resurrects Tinkerbell in a production of Peter Pan. The T-rex humps a very sad looking gallimimus rather than eat it.
Before the show, Sam promised me that they plan to destroy as many of the props and costumes as humanly possible since there was no longer a reason to keep them intact. He wasn't kidding. The cardboard Jurassic Park jeep is literally torn to bits. The stage (and the actors) find themselves drenched in shaving cream and ranch dressing. At the grand conclusion, after Grant tells Hammond that he won't endorse the park, the entire cast joins together and destroys the massive T-rex costume in a moment of joyous, cathartic celebration.
When they found themselves in the precarious position of having to live up to Aliens On Ice, the guys and gals at Old Murder House responded by creating their best show yet, a production that effortlessly blends their love of cinema with their absurd comedy. It's loud, it's frantic, it's smart, it's creative and, most importantly, it's funny. Really funny.
Right now, Sam isn't sure what's next for the troupe, but he did tell me that Jaws has been on his mind for some time now. I think I'm joking when I suggest they perform it on a lake, but it turns out that he's already given it some thought.