Jill Dalton and Lizzie Borden Live

10 Nov

LIZZIE BORDEN LIVE plays only two days at the Columbus Theatre this weekend, November 14th and 15th. It will be shown on the smaller Cinematheque theater stage, much smaller than the stage when I saw this performance twice in Sedona. As there are only 200 seats for this brief 2-day run, only 400 people in the New England area will get the opportunity to see this wonderful one-woman play. If you live in the area, be one of the 400!

Below is my original review of Jill Dalton’s outstanding performance:

Spent a long weekend in Sedona, AZ with three of my geocaching, quad-riding friends for the purpose of seeing Jill Dalton’s original one-woman play, LIZZIE BORDEN LIVE at the Canyon Moon Theater.

The theater is nestled in the back of a gallery store-front in an outlet stores shopping mall in the Village of Oak Creek, just on the outskirts of Sedona.

Right click for bigger image

It is a considerably long run as can be seen by this schedule.

Click HERE for a history of its runs and info on other’s responsible for this wonderful production.

Jill Dalton has done a few t.v. stints per her IMBd profile but one would not know from that what an incredible actress she is nor of this brilliant script which she herself wrote.  Jill is distinguished by having won the 2007 Jacoby Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress for her portrayal of Lizzie Borden in this play.

The lovely Jill Dalton

Lizzie Borden Live is a one-woman play in one act-one scene set in Fall River in 1905 at Lizzie’s home “Maplecroft”, and runs approximately 90 minutes.  There are no other actors and no musical interludes.  Dalton is on the stage the entire time.  Though looking nothing like Lizzie Borden in 1905, Jill Dalton quickly has you in suspended belief that she is Lizzie.

From the Cape May (NJ) County Herald

The more familiar one is with the principals and nuances of the Borden murder case, the more appreciative one is of Dalton’s research and the brilliance of her script.  The dialog she has written when speaking in the “voice” of others is taken from the legal proceedings or newspapers of the time.  She exposes those principals as Lizzie views them in her mind, be they friend or foe, and gracefully sways in and out of moods using her hands and arms and general movement and expressions on stage to accentuate her shifting emotions.  She has us mesmerized.

From Lizzie Borden Live website

Jill gives us a performance that compels us to see this woman as a 3-dimensional human being beyond the one dimensional persona from that inaccurate quatrain so repeatedly quoted and serving to cement the caricature of this enigmatic woman.  She puts us inside Lizzie’s head and Lizzie’s heart, but more than that there is a multi-layered texture to the portrayal she maintains and upon which she builds  when transitioning to the child Lizzie, to the young Lizzie, to the Lizzie accused, and to Lizzie alone.  And while we feel for this woman we can fear her as well, for Dalton’s acting talent portrays a Lizzie that is raging within herself but asks us to question our own selves about that same rage.  It is frightening and forceful.

East Lynn Theatre Company

There is also much light-heartedness to this Lizzie within the play, and at times we chuckle and laugh out loud at her words (again the cleverness of the script).  But nothing impressed me more than when Lizzie tells us of her Grand Tour to England, Italy and France in 1890.   With a sudden switch in stage lighting we are transported to Paris and we are in an almost dreamlike state as Dalton depicts Lizzie’s passionate emotions at the height of her life’s happiness in enchanting Paris.  She twirls and spins and laughs as a young girl and tells of her travels and we are so happy for her – for these 19  weeks of blissful joy before suddenly being back in Fall River.  This was one of my favorite parts of the entire play and Dalton’s acting was absolutely incredible in pulling off this transition and heightening our suspended belief.

From the Canyon Moon theater website.

When Dalton interjects Nance O’Neil into the play those who are familiar with the facts will get more out of the dialogue than those who have little to no knowledge of this component to the Borden saga.  But here again the script does not lead us to a definitive conclusion as to whether they were lovers or just friends.  And her one-way dialogue with Nance on the phone is spot on to those familiar about Lizzie Borden’s history with the manipulative Nance O’Neil.

What is extraordinarily powerful, however, is Dalton’s performance by word, tone, and expression regarding the abandonment of her life-long surrogate mother and confidant – her sister Emma.  And just on the heels of that – the abandonment of her friend, Nance.  Dalton’s performance at this point in the play stirred my heart, put an absolute hush in the audience and kept the entire audience riveted to every single word and movement.  It was an acting tour de force the likes of which we seldom see on stage.

From the East Lynn Theater Company

I can’t say enough about the brilliance of this script and how Jill Dalton gives us many Lizzies throughout the play and yet ultimately only one emerges:  A multi-faceted woman of real flesh and blood with all the same feelings and foibles we all have.  What Dalton has accomplished is given us a Lizzie we can hold on to.  She’s made her less allusive by allowing us to see through Lizzie’s eyes, laugh with Lizzie’s own spirited humor, and feel sorrow at Lizzie’s torment and depression.  But Dalton goes to just the edge and no further – sculpting a Lizzie so finely that her portrayal neither erodes the mystery of the woman herself nor diminishes the variables and allure within this most facinating case.   Indeed, Jill Dalton’s absolutely stunning performance in this play – so aptly titled – truly gives us: Lzzie Borden Live.

I so loved the experience because of Jill’s performance I’m going back before it closes.  If this play comes to your area, do not miss it!!


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