Theater archives

Bring Us the Head of Your Daughter: The Theater of Screech


According to music lore, the infamous heavy metal shredder Yngwie Malmsteen, when asked by an ear-fried studio tech to tone down the sonic blitz, said the following (it helps to imagine a Nordic accent): “Less is not more. More is more.”

Derek Ahonen, of the Amoralists, subscribes to the “more is more” theory of playwriting: More shouting (his characters run the gamut of human feeling from A to A); more objectionable ethnic stereotypes crowding the stage like a weird zoo of racial slurs; more puerile plot contortions; more dopey one-liners (“Are babies smarter than cats?”). And the results are as lame, narcissistic, and headache-inducing as the screechiest, most interminable guitar solo.

With his new play, Bring Us the Head of Your Daughter, which he also directs, Ahonen seems to have been inspired to write a rebuttal to The Kids Are All Right (call it Nobody’s All Right). The premise resembles the setup for a skeezy joke: So there’s this lesbian couple. One of them is black (we know that because she’s so dignified and long-suffering). The other is Jewish (we know that because she’s a soused, whiny pain-in-the-ass who threatens to kill herself every second minute). They have a daughter who’s an 18-year-old cannibal serial killer.

And away we go: The black lesbian has a long-lost half brother. He raped her when they were kids. He’s HIV-positive. He comes to find her because he needs money for meds. They have an incestuous child somewhere out there. Oh, no, wait, there’s more: The couple’s daughter is actually not a serial killer. She was working for the government, creating a hot scandal to confuse the masses. She decides to move to Israel because she hates America (this is also why she talks in a British accent).

If all this sounds like an enjoyably arch B-movie romp, poking fun at the very idea of plot—it’s not. Remember the shouting (and the crying). The actors think they’re competing in the Method Olympics. The play’s genre is up for grabs: It’s either the unfunniest live sitcom in town or the most risible serious family drama. Whichever way you go, it’s the longest, shrillest almost-two hours in the theater you’re likely to spend.

When the world’s most bigoted Southern fundamentalist pictures New York City, this is probably what he imagines. It doesn’t take a lot of guts to just heave a bunch of un-PC clichés onstage and then congratulate yourself for busting taboos.