Review: You Don't Even Have to Subscribe to Like "@make_us_scream"

@make_us_scream

Written and directed by Elisabeth Yancey, Courtney Stennett, and Kasey Connolly

Presented by 3ofCups Productions at The Kraine Theater

85 E 4th St, Manhattan, NYC

February 15-March 4, 2023

Courtney Stennett, Elisabeth Yancey, and Kasey Connolly. Photo credit: Dallas Riley
The culture of live-streaming is by now well-established as a focus in horror film, with movies such as Cam (2018), Dashcam (2021), and Deadstream (2022) providing just a few recent, high-profile examples. With @make_us_scream, presented as part of the 17th annual FRIGID Fringe festival, Brooklyn theater and film collective 3ofCups transposes this subgenre to the stage in a satisfyingly sinister (yet not afraid to get silly) play about a live-streaming audition that ends up having some unforeseen complications.

The play's title refers to a social media channel run by Cora (Kasey Connolly), Bree (Courtney Stennett), and–boasting a classic androgynous Final Girl name–Sam (Elisabeth Yancey). The trio have been establishing a following telling scary stories to their audience, but their live audition to be picked up by the Hot Girl Horror channel requires them to amp up the on-stream sexuality and for Cora, generally behind the scenes, to step in front of the webcam as well (at one point, the extensive, and funny, list of criteria that Hot Girl Horror demands be met during the stream is read aloud). Sam, who is a practitioner of magick, insists that the women cleanse the space together before the stream begins, but there is a hiccup at the end of the ritual that may or may not have something to do with why the women begin living a scary story at the same time that they are trying to tell some to secure their big break.
Elisabeth Yancey, Kasey Connolly, and Courtney Stennett. Photo credit: Dallas Riley
As all of this unfolds, @make_us_scream touches on the place of camp in horror, second versus third/fourth wave feminist debates over whether using female sexuality as a tool constitutes a form of empowerment or internalized oppression, and the sometimes insidious power of the internet to unearth what one might prefer remain buried; but the show's main thematic thrust, in a venerable horror tradition, is the lengths to which we will go–or are forced to go–for economic survival. As part of that theme, the play also critiques how actual women's trauma (about which the play effectively tells us just enough regarding these characters) is exploited in order to generate entertainment. Connolly, Stennett, and Yancey are consistently compelling as the pressure on their characters rises, and the production makes great use of visual elements as well: Sam acting out a story that Bree is telling gives way too short animations as a background to a later tale, for example, and the inclusion of (very realistic) live chats from the fictional audience work flawlessly to increase our immersion. A compellingly compact piece of theater, @make_us_scream hits the right horror buttons even as it asks questions about and through a genre that it clearly loves.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

Comments

  1. Sounds like a very interesting play. And of course is very hard to decide if whether "using female sexuality as a tool is a form of empowerment or internalized oppression". We'd like to believe is a form of empowerment. El universo femenino.

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