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Silence! the Musical

This musical parody of Jonathan Demme's film thriller is funnier than ever.

Jenn Harris and David Garrison
in Silence! The Musical
(© Carol Rosegg)
Theatergoers should prepare to scream -- with laughter -- as they take their seats of Silence! the Musical, which has just reopened at The 9th Space Theater.

The show, an unauthorized parody of Jonathan Demme's modern film thriller Silence of the Lambs, had been a deliriously funny romp in its previous home -- Theater 80 St. Mark's -- but, in this new, and appropriately creepy, venue, the production has moved to a new level: it's the sort of campy theatrical treat that might have theatergoers returning again and again, just to savor its tuneful delirium.

Indeed, one of the simplest changes to the show -- the omission of an intermission -- has ratcheted up its level of comic mayhem to terrific effect. Theatergoers are now simply not given the chance to catch a breath as the story unfolds about how fledgling FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jenn Harris), working with the assistance of convicted and incarcerated serial killer Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter (new cast member David Garrison), tracks down still-at-large serial killer Buffalo Bill (the always daring Stephen Bienske).

The story's a nailbiter without a doubt, but, minus the break in the action, the show's final fight-to-the-death between Clarice and Bill underscored in a galvanic 11 o'clock number (delivered by Deidre Goodwin) now sizzles with hilarity.

In addition, the production, directed and choreographed with immaculately controlled abandon by Christopher Gattelli, has been tweaked in ways that will surprise theatergoers who saw the earlier version. For instance, there's a new Dancing With the Stars wisecrack about Chaz Bono, and video designer Richard H. DiBella has inserted a couple of images during the show's final moments that are simply sidesplitting.

And then, there's the matter of Garrison's formidably menacing -- yet nonetheless funny -- turn as Hannibal. With his Aquiline profile, close-cut gray hair, and a tautly wiry physique, Garrison certainly cuts a dashing figure as the imprisoned murderer, and he sings the show's tunes (by songwriters Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan) with flair, rivaling his predecessor Brent Barrett.

With a demented twinkle that occasionally fires in his eye, or a wry turn of the lip, Garrison takes the role to a new level. To be sure, there are times when theatergoers may not be entirely certain if this Hannibal is about to crack a joke or really might have some sort of more lethal intention brewing in his fevered brain.

The addition of Garrison to the company has also sparked Harris' turn. New, gutbustingly funny details have crept into her performance, which continues to amplify film star Jodie Foster's Southern-accented lisp and oxymoronic tough girl naiveté to hysterical effect.

The performers' excellent work continues to be supported by a production that revels in its low-budget cheesiness: from the four rolling panels that have been outfitted with crazy quilts of cloth that reference the patchwork of human skins that Buffalo Bill is making for himself to blackboard erasers that are clapped together to create "fog." It's the kind of silliness that simply satisfies.


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