The stage opens in full darkness with ominous music that puts the audience on edge. A maniacal laugh starts to build, and a faint light reveals a man in a dirty green and red sweater and a metal-clawed glove: Freddy Krueger from the classic horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Unlike in the film, however, the live audience at Old Town's Siren Theater soon joins Krueger in laughing, as actors underscore the humor found in the horror, embodying the film's absurd characters, bad acting, and thoroughly cheesy dialogue.
The film was transformed into a satirical play in 2019 by Shelley McClendon, the founder of Siren Theater, which opened in 2015 as the home for Bad Reputation Productions, a company that creates and performs its own renditions of classics from the ’80s. The group’s other performances include Road House (which the Siren mounted at the end of this summer), The Lost Boys, and Poltergeist. McClendon gravitates toward ’80s films, she explains, for the many odd moments that leave audiences questioning if that really just happened.
“Certain movies, especially from the ’80s, back then when you watched them you didn’t even think about it,” she says. “But now you watch them, and you’re like ‘Holy shit! That was in the movie?’”
McLendon works to highlight those “holy shit” moments to bring the already-present humor to the forefront, which creates a satirical look at movies that we may have not found comedy in before. A few (semi-universal) things A Nightmare on Elm Street calls attention to: Why are teenage characters played by 30-year-old actors? Who says stuff like that? Why is she not running away from the serial killer?
McClendon penned the show’s script, and left room for the performers— many of whom have been involved with Bad Reputation Productions since the beginning—to flex their creative muscles and improvise some of their own humor.
Part of any show’s success is the energy from the audience, and McLendon is fully expecting this year’s crowd to bring the enthusiasm: “Last Halloween, we couldn’t do anything. And so this Halloween, we get to do stuff… That itself brings a new element to it.”
In other words: Drink caffeine, grab some snacks, and do your best to stay awake, or you may end up just like the unfortunate teens in A Nightmare on Elm Street. The show runs every weekend through the first weekend of November, at 8 pm.