Bored This Weekend? See The Musical About Fisting

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Ever wonder what comes out of the brains of NYU’s Dramatic Writing department? Look no further than NYU student Anderson Cook. Or, maybe you don’t want to look. Cook, a senior currently on a leave of absence and occasional artistic collaborator of mine, has written something called The Disembodied Hand That Fisted Everyone To Death: The Musical.

Yes, it is a musical. This delightfully horrific premise was inspired by someone Cook met at a Fourth of July party in Bed-Stuy, who proclaimed that a medical student who used to live in his apartment left a hand in a box that they now use as a centerpiece. “It turns out,” Cook told Local, “that it’s a skeleton of a hand, not an actual hand. But that’s how the idea came about.”

Cook initially wrote the show as a screenplay. He dreamed of a musical version, but assumed such dreams would go unrealized because he didn’t write music. Enter Amanda D’Archangelis, a composer and grad of Boston Conservatory, who was introduced to Cook via a mutual friend. She wrote music for musicals and was looking for someone who wrote lyrics and books to collaborate with. He sent her the script, she sent him a few demo songs, and a match made in fleshy heaven was born.

So what could a musical with such a title possibly be about? “The year is 1953,” describes Cook. “Polio was recently cured by Dr. Jonas Salk, and an associate of his feels like he needs to make a name for himself by inventing this apparatus that reanimates detached limbs. And he tries it and thinks it fails. Little does he know it just took longer than he thought, and the hand comes back to life and escapes the lab. Some frat bros find it on the street and take it back to their frat house and one of them uses it to scratch his balls so the hand develops a vendetta against the fraternity and fists everyone to death.” Sounds simple enough.

The Disembodied Hand That Fisted Everyone To Death: The Musical will have two performances as part of The Bad Theater Fest (think B-movies onstage rather than poor-quality fare) at the PIT Loft, the former site of the Treehouse Theater. It appears alongside shows with such titles as ‘i love dead cat,’ ‘JD Salinger Does Four And A Half Minutes Of Stand-Up (A 10-Minute Play),’ and ‘Naked TED Talk.’

This piece is part of a genre that blends absurd comedy and theater, with a cast made up partially by trained musical theater vocalists and Cook’s comedy friends who are “just faking the singing and dancing thing.”

After writing The Disembodied Hand…, Cook felt unsure as to where it could find a home. He checked out New York Musical Theater Festival, and found that “their R-rated shows like, allude to sex. It’s not a thing. And then like, would comedy people really get this [musical]?” Then, he saw Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp’s musical Fucking Identical Twins at UCB, a depraved version of The Parent Trap, and realized that the comedy realm did in fact have a space for works like his, perhaps more so than the musical theater community.

“I feel like musical theater really changed around Avenue Q, where theater could be doing this [type of] thing. And obviously Book of Mormon. I think it’s important that there are things like that, and not just another revival of On the Town,” he says. “Interesting and to some degree provocative. I’m glad that people are doing that with musical theater and comedy.”

Maybe after seeing this you’ll be inspired to write a comedy musical of your own. But either way, Cook says, “You’ll see a lot of people get fisted.”

‘The Disembodied Hand That Fisted Everyone To Death: The Musical’ happens October 24 at 7pm and November 7 at 11pm as part of The Bad Theater Festival at The PIT Loft, 154 W 29th Street (between 6th and 7th Ave.) Tickets are $15. More info here.

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