Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta, the new immersive theatrical production from Rogue Artists Ensemble, is not a horrifying Halloween show along the lines of their previous effort, Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin; it is, however, a magical history tour, in which the spirits of times past return to tell us tales of their lives. Elaborated with puppetry and projection effects, Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta is a more elaborately produced version of the Halloween tours presented by historical societies, using ghosts as a means to resurrect the past for modern audiences. And it does have a scary component, for those brave enough to enter a realm of Nightmares.
Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta Review: The Life & Laughter of an Old Californian
Staged within the main building of West Hollywood's Plummer Park, Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta tells the life story of the park's name sake, Eugene Plummer. The play begins in 1942, at a book signing for "Don Juan" (the pen name of Los Angeles Time reporter John Buschlen), who wrote Señor Plummer: The Life and Laughter of an Old Californian. (The actual book is for sale at the event, and the "author" will sign it for purchasers.) The aging Señor Plummer (in the form of a life-sized, walking puppet) crashes the party, introducing us to three younger versions of himself, plus his best friend and his wife. After Plummer is (literally) spirited away, the remaining characters invite us to follow them to experience stories of Life, Love, Friendship, and Nightmares.
Like the groundbreaking Tamara from the 1980s, Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta allows viewers to choose which characters to follow (though if areas become under- or over-populated, the characters will subtly urge participants to even out the population). There are more scenes than can be experienced in a single night; and because they run repeatedly and simultaneously, there is a good chance you may enter en media res or encounter the same scene more than once.
There are also areas where visitors can linger while waiting for a scene: a church, Plummer's home, and especially the saloon. In the first two, a character will probably attend to answer questions; the latter is filled with characters who come and go, telling riotous tales and encouraging you to purchase drinks from the bar (beer only). On the night we attended, the church seemed like a missed opportunity: there were several panels visible in the wall, clearly intended to open and reveal some surprise, but none of them. (We pushed one open ourself, only to have it pushed back closed!)
Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta Review: Fantasy & Nightmares
The majority of Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta is in keeping with the title - a festival of life, even among hardships. Still, there are fanciful elements throughout. Author Don Juan is perplexed to find himself transported into the past or seeing glimpses of the future, and Plummer is prone to tall tales: one depicts him harpooning and riding a shark. The shark (played by an actor wearing a large shark head) appears elsewhere as the Land Shark - though in this case the guise is a metaphor a land-grabbing villain who repeatedly makes claims on Plummer's property.
Nightmares is the one truly creepy part of the play. Plummer's wife takes the audience on a tour of the memories that her husband would rather forget - the violence and injustice of the old west, seen in miniature dioramas of lynchings and earthquakes and enacted by a masked character representing the tortured ghosts of various victims. Staged in nearly pitch-black rooms, Nightmares makes the best use we have seen of programmed flashlights, which automatically turn on and off and sometimes strobe, casting eerie shadows over the proceedings, which includes digging through sand to unearth a ring attached to a bony finger. If you are interested in Kaidan Project-style thrills, this scene is for you.
Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta Review: Conclusion
Though only tangentially connected to the Halloween season, Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta offers a fanciful depiction of local history. The pageant of loosely connected scenes serves as an excuse for romance and drama, told not only with dialogue but also with song and dance. The play is ever so slightly similar to the Spirit of Christmas Past chapter of A Christmas Carol, which used the supernatural as a plot device for a sort of time travel - but without the dramatic character arc of Dickens's novella. The only through-line here is Eugene Plummer's philosophy, that there are no goodbyes - only "Hast La Vista" ("Until we meet again"). The upbeat aphorism neatly encapsulates the tone of Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta, which leaves audiences feeling as if they too have attended a delightful fiesta.
Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta Rating
Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta Rating
Though only tangentially connected to the Halloween season, Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta offers a fanciful depiction of local history, which leaves audiences feeling as if they too have attended a delightful fiesta.
Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta runs through November 18 at Plummer Park in West Hollywood. Performances are at 7:30pm on most Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays; there are exceptions, so check the website for details. Monday, November 5 is pay what you can day (ranging from $5 to $100). The address is 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. For more information, visit: rogueartists.org.
Note: The show’s run was recently extended, so tickets are not yet available for performances after November 5.