Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bloody Bloody Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden is not the first musical to feature a murderer as its protagonist. And with its rock concert microphones and anachronistic language and props, it calls to mind Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (I think it's a coincidence that Lizzie's father is also named Andrew Jackson) and Spring Awakening (the original incarnation of Lizzie Borden actually debuted in 1990 so it predates both). And yet there is something very fresh about this production, playing at the Living Theatre through October 17.

In 1892, Lizzie Borden was the primary suspect in the murder of her father and his wife. She was declared innocent, but this musical assumes her guilt and explores the reasons why she gave them those brutal 40 and 41 whacks. These reasons include sexual abuse by her father and the fact that his new will leaves everything to his second wife.

Lizzie is played by Jenny Fellner as a sweet young bird-lover, who slowly becomes an angry and confident rock chick. Her transformation is aided by Bobby Frederick Tilly II's brilliant punk period costume designs. All four women--Fellner, Lisa Birnbaum as her sister Emma, Marie-France Arcilla as her lover Alice, and Carrie Cimma as the maid Bridget (also known as Maggie)--are given the chance to display their powerful vocals, but the true star is the heavy-metal and punk infused rock score by Stephen Cheslik-DeMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt.

Tim Maner's direction makes excellent use of the minimal stage and the murder scene is particularly well done. Especially effective in creating an eerie setting are the video design by Zoe Woodworth and lighting design by Christian M. DeAngelis.

This is the most fun I've had at the theater in a long time. See it at the Living Theatre just in case, but if there is justice, this won't be the last we'll see of Lizzie Borden.

Click here for tickets and more information.

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