Presented by Lost Dreams Collective
Dead Broke opens as a kinda cheesy drama about wayward college students. Oliver (Will King) laments to girlfriend Charlotte (Courtney Keir) that, having switched his major from a pragmatic to an artistic pursuit, his father has cut off financial support. To make ends meet, he begins squatting in an abandoned old house.
After a house-warming party with friends—drug dealer Johnny (Gordon Harper), his slacker groupie, Irina (Claire Shenstone-Harris) and Charlotte’s over-protective roommate Laura (Elle Reimer)—the story veers briefly into a stoner comedy vibe. Eventually, as creepy revelations about the not-so-abandoned house emerge, the play finds its horror-comedy footing and becomes, well, absurdly glorious!
A half-forgotten serial killer, mysterious doors, possession and plots twists: all of the elements are in quirky, surreal alignment. With some old-timey elements thrown in, it’s corny and ridiculous in all the right ways. Though silly, it provides a rich eldritch atmosphere and some genuine scares.
Director Calvin Peterson and the design team—Julia Kim (set and costumes) and Chin Palipane (lighting)—manage to conjure a vivid sense of place with minimal, savvy set dressing and props. The milk crates, cardboard boxes and tangle of extension cord feel effectively squalid. Those awful red plastic cups did it for me: evoke the sloppy, drunken antics of my early-20s.
King’s script is a nostalgic ode to his own university experience and a giddy pastiche of familiar genre tropes. The situation and interactions are hilarious enough on their own terms, but the low-key self-awareness gives it some camp appeal. The gun—you’ll know when you see it—seals that particular deal.
Dead Broke really tickled me. It’s an ideal Fringe treat.