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Movie may be terrible, but play's divine

Theater
by: Courtesy of Last Rites Productions, Actors in “Manos: The Hands of Fate” redeemed a bad movie earlier this year, and now its producers hope to do the same with “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.”

Ryan Cloutier and Brian Koch didn't know how the public would respond when they launched a theater company this year with a stage version of 'Manos: The Hands of Fate,' arguably one of the worst movies ever made.

The two felt confident only that their friends would come see the initial effort by Last Rites Productions, a show that ran for three weeks in January. What they got were overflow crowds.

'I went out there in the lobby, and it was packed,' Cloutier says of the final weekend.

'We really weren't expecting the success we had,' Koch says. 'That show struck a chord.'

That bodes well for Last Rites, which now steps up in class, mounting a production of the 1962 sci-fi thriller 'The Brain That Wouldn't Die.' Never mind that the cult classic is anything but good cinema.

'This is like 'Citizen Kane' compared to our last show,' Koch says.

A ponderous meditation on the dangers of science and technology gone awry, the movie is a riot of unintended humor, never more so than when a point-of-view shot shows the film's protagonist plucking his girlfriend's disembodied head from the burning wreckage of his car. Koch swears an additional pair of hands is visible, helping with the handoff.

Cloutier and Koch, twenty- to-thirtysomethings who discovered the cinematic gems via the television series 'Mystery Science Theater,' enjoy the challenge of turning such moments into live theater.

'I don't want to say unprofessional,' Cloutier says, 'but we intentionally work with the awkwardness of the movie.'

- Eric Bartels

8 p.m. FRIDAY, SATURDAY and Thursday, through July 29, Miracle Theatre, 525 S.E. Stark St., 503-547-4019, www.lastrites productions.org, $10-$12