POST: FringeNYC's 'Beware the Chupacabra!' - loneliness, a means to survival

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I'd been excited to see Beware the Chupacabra! since I first discovered it. The plot seemed funny, the preview pictures looked amazing, and the premise of hunting a mythological beast has always interested me. The performance was at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre, which was fairly easily accessible for me - a 45 minute train ride and a block or two from the Bleecker street station. The neighborhood is filled with places to shop and eat, so getting there way too early, like I did, I killed time simply by exploring the area. 

Once they allowed us into the theater, I noticed how small and intimate it was, which I really appreciate because I like that up close and personal feeling. I was a little concerned though, because there was a seemingly homeless man laying down in the back of the theater. Once the audience was seated, he began to beg random guests for change. Whether or not I gave any isn’t important, but as the show began (which, by the way, happened exactly at 9:30, which I liked, because I’m a stickler for punctuality) he took center stage. It turns out he was actually one of the actors portraying a homeless man - I thought it was nice because it sort of brought me into the show before it had even started.

The show takes place at the start of the New Year of 1920.  A bunch of rich people who are out celebrating pass by the homeless man and begin singing to him about how it’s the start of a new era and that he can turn his life around. Halfway through the song, one of the rich women grabs the homeless man suddenly and causes the change in his cup to go flying. It was funny for that fact alone but also for the fact that it was actual audience member’s money and now it’s being used as a prop - I found that fact hilarious.

A nearby police officer also joins in on their song and dance, and at the end they’re all telling the homeless man to cheer up and one of the rich women hands him a bottle of alcohol. But just as he’s about to take a sip the cop suddenly arrests him, Prohibition is the law of the land. The rich man begins to argue with the officer over the fact that he can’t arrest him due to the fact that he is the main character. The officer tells them that he’s not the main character, and the rich people look around in confusion asking “then who the hell were we supposed to sing to?” I love reaching out to the audience like this. 

After that we are introduced to the real main character, Teddy Baskins, a talented dressmaker with a secret talent of making gadgets. His most recent one being the Caller, a device that allows the listener to understand the wearer despite a language difference. After a turn of events, he ends up losing his job because of Victoria Warner, the daughter of the until-recently wealthy Arris Warner. She then invites Teddy to live with them because she wants him to make her dresses. After a few months, when Teddy intends to marry her, Arris asks him to prove he is a man by hunting and retrieving the hide of the Chupacabra.

So Teddy heads off to Mexico, and during his quest many unforeseen problems arise, and I don’t want to spoil much else, but he and the Chupacabra end up befriending one another with the help of Teddy’s Caller.

The show was filled with many types of humor from political to dirty jokes, and there were just so many charming aspects of the show. Most of the handheld props were made of cardboard that was cut into shapes and drawn on, like the hunting rifle and the flare gun, which was funny. My favorite thing about it, though, was that whenever there was a musical number that Teddy was a part of that led into another scene where he was alone, he would be singing and humming the last song to himself. I loved this, because that means that everyone was actually just breaking out into song and dance randomly in his world. And every time he would try to sing the songs to himself again another character would shut him up.

Aside from the jokes, the show got a lot deeper and emotional than I was expecting. The Chupacabra was the last of her kind and Teddy was very anti-social so he did not go out much. The two would express these feelings of loneliness and how they cope with it. They showed how loneliness can be something saddening, in Teddy’s case, or just a means to survival and a way of life, in the Chupacabra’s case. 

- Daniel