REVIEW: Furman Theatre Scares the Hell Out of Audiences with ‘Kappa Kappa Scream’

Chris Sessoms and Matt Middleton are “killer” clowns in “Kappa Kappa Scream.” Photo by Jeremy Fleming


Somewhere deep in the Carolina woods is an isolated cabin that harbors family secrets, surprises and frights for a group of sorority sisters on a Halloween-eve weekend retreat in Furman University Theatre’s world premiere of “Kappa Kappa Scream.”

The work is the latest from returning Playwright-in-Residence and South Carolina native Randall David Cook, recent inductee into the South Carolina Theatre Hall of Fame and whose plays have been produced around the world. In 2013 his play “Pomp and Circumstance” also premiered at his alma mater Furman where he graduated in 1991 as a business major.

In this low-brow tale, Cook ups the ante on suspense masters like Ira Levin and Frederick Knott and goes straight for the jugular. Employing an unusually sizeable cast for this genre, “Kappa Kappa Scream” is a commendable spoof of horror films with nods to “Bad Christmas,” “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th” and even a little “The Exorcist” tossed in.

But “Kappa Kappa Scream” also has elements of dark comedy with references to the catty shallow gals in “Heathers” (a trio of indistinguishable characters named Heather A, C and L) and the Chanels of “Scream Queens” (without the fashion sense).

In its opening scene two creepy clowns (Chris Sessoms and Matt Middleton) set the “American Horror Story” tone. But, of course, this spell is immediately broken when we realize these are not pedophiles or blood-thirsty circus freaks, but just but a couple of stoner fraternity brothers having some fun with the intention of scare the bejesus out of the young ladies who are expected anytime.

Four of the senior sorority members arrive first: Ashley (Sarah Cushman) whose family owns the cabin; their leader Sabrina (Elizabeth Budinoff); the nervous and studious Brit (Alexandra Harris); and the petite Nikki (Clare Ruble) who seems to have a vociferous sexual appetite and the best one-liners in the play.

We learn that Kappa Kappa Delta has just been reinstated after a two-year suspension for a hazing infraction and that the new dozen or so pledges are at the dusty cabin for a weekend retreat, not a “hazing.”  One of the pledges Amber (a rambunctious Kenzie Wynne) even regales the group with a ghost story that turns out to be the plot of “Silence of the Lambs.”

Cook bombards the young women and the audience with every horror trope imaginable: a record player intermittently turns itself on. A grandfather clock seems to chime always at 12 o’clock. And the ladies begin disappearing one by one.

Cook’s residency and time with Furman students has paid-off handsomely particularly in his sharp dialogue that demonstrate his uncanny pulse on teenage jargon and banter. And somehow he even works in a Beyonce dance number.

And there are some heart-stopping moments, flashbacks (expediently directed by department chair Jay Oney) and a mindboggling, clever twist at the end that elevates Cook’s story above conventional slasher mentality. And most of all, this thriller keeps you on your toes at all times. Expect the unexpected and be afraid, very afraid.

“Kappa Kappa Scream” continues through February 18 at The Playhouse at Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway in Greenville. For tickets, call (864) 294-2125 or visit


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