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ABSINTHE OPIUM AND MAGIC: 1920s SHANGHAI 

Nov.2009-May 2010. Three month sold out run at ArtWorks Theatre, co-produced with Art Via Corpora then a month at The Actors' Gang by invitation of artistic director, Tim Robbins. 

  • LA Weekly GO!
  • LA Times Critic's Choice
  • Ovation Recommended
  • Ovation Nomination Best Sound Design, John Zalewski
  • Honorary Special Effects Award, Chris Bell, LA Drama Critic's Circle & invited guests to perform at awards show.

This original production took guests on a 1920s luxury cruise to Shanghai, with Sing Song Girls (Chinese geishas) and brawling gangsters in Sing Song Girl Sings Last Song, blood and opium in a Grand Guignol piece, The Cabinet of Hands, and magic, absinthe, a Chinese lion and an evil rabbit in The Sorcerer's Apprentice based on the Goethe story.  Petits Guignolers performed hypnosis, blood and eroticism. Pre-show on-board festivities included absinthe, tea, photo booth, tango and Flashlight Follies.

SELECTED PRESS QUOTES.  SEE GRAND GUIGNOLERS LINK FOR MORE INFO.

NBC FEATURE & INTERVIEW

"insanely entertaining... CREATES NEW GENRE"-LA Stage Blog

"Take a trip back in time, back to a long-forgotten era with the wild and crazy Grand Guignolers Theatre troupe. Devised by and starring Debbie McMahon, along with her talented ensemble of mimes, puppeteers, dancers, singers and actors, Absinthe, Opium and Magic: 1920s Shanghai is a magical night of theatre and gore." ArtsBeat LA

"So much more than a night at the theatre – Debbie McMahon and her incredibly talented ensemble troupe go all out to create a mystical aura that thoroughly envelops the audience." ArtsBeat LA

"Debbie McMahon's direction is a truly original and brilliant style..... Absinthe Opium & Magic: 1920s Shanghai is a spectacular adventure ... A truly captivating experience from start to finish." -- LA Splash Magazine

"But in four inventively interlocking segments showcasing her unique stylistic fusion of Grand Guignol with commedia dell'arte, puppetry, music and dance, McMahon and her hard-working ensemble also offer some (literally) sharp-edged social commentary."  -- LA Times - Critic's Choice

"The world Debbie McMahon and her ensemble troupe have created is something that has to be seen. It’s a colorful world filled with beautiful sequences, where fights are works of art in slow motion, puppets analyze their own existence, umbrellas turn into puffs of opium smoke, and giant dragons and rabbits are involved in epic battles." LA Stage Times

"the Grand Guignolers company brings a rollicking, authentic charm to this storied form." Backstage West

"McMahon does a terrific job of adapting the genre to modern sensibilities while remaining true to the essential character of Grand Guignol. As a performer, she also leads the troupe in its marvelously outsized expressions and physical gestures." Backstage West

"...writer-director Debbie McMahon adapts 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' (loosely based on the Goethe story) into a madcap, hilarious frenzy featuring prancing goons and a jumbo rabbit." Backstage West


A GRAND GUIGNOL CHILDREN'S SHOW* (*NOT FOR CHILDREN) 

December 2008: This show enjoyed a sold out extended three month run co-produced with Art Via Corpora. Celebrating its namesake, this adult 'children's show' is a 200th surprise birthday party for the beloved French puppet, Guignol, then usurped by cousin, Punch. It presents traditional folk tales in pre-Grimm forms: Hansel and Gretel: a Horror PlayLittle Red Riding Hood: a Horror PlayThe Ugly Duckling: a Melodrama Ballet and Rapunzel: An Erotic Thriller (by les petits guignolers).

SELECT HIGHLIGHTS OF REVIEWS OF A GRAND GUIGNOL CHILDREN'S SHOW* (*NOT FOR CHILDREN)

a vivacious and rude entertainment that’s part French vaudeville and part-British Punch and Judy puppet show.”  “tingles up the spine run hot and cold” LA Weekly GO!

“a charming, very French production," “the ebullient performers, including McMahon herself, throw themselves into the festivities with brio.”  “enchanting evening” LA Times

“Writer-director Debbie McMahon has gone to the canon of children's literature and found the old, gruesome versions, which  she stages with unabandoned glee.Backstage West

“The big piece of the evening is Hansel and Gretel, in which the director's ability to stage the troubling with aplomb is most in evidence. The production's musical embroidery is eclectic and sets just the right mood for this  disturbingly enjoyable celebration of the ghastly.” Backstage West


A VERY GRAND GUIGNOL CHRISTMAS
November 2007: An LA Times critics choice and part of the first LA Physical Theatre Arts Festival, co-produced by Art Via Corpora. The show included original physically based clown/mine/dance material in Dance Macabre, dance, les petits guignolers, and classic Grand Guignol plays: the farce, These Cornfields and the classic horror play, The Laboratory of Hallucinations. The show enjoyed a sold out run. The production was also performed for Cal State Summer School for the Arts per invitation.

SELECT HIGHLIGHTS OF REVIEWS FOR A VERY GRAND GUIGNOL CHRISTMAS

“…performed with panache, fierce determination and impressive physical dexterity…” LA Times, Critics Pick

“The entire production is done with an eye to theatrical excess and is notable for keeping so many people on the same page.”  Backstage West


AN EVENING OF GRAND GUIGNOL

June 2007: The sold out first production presented classic Grand Guignol plays, The Final Kiss and A Crime in the Madhouse, and the US premiere of les petits guignolers (French finger puppets) in The Kiss of Death

"The comically drawn-out pauses leading up to the horrible climax of the final play is a genius trick of comic timing." The LAist