Play Review: Lizzie Borden Took An Axe

10 Aug

The entire cast raised more than enough money to have their travel expenses paid by donors and performed August 5th and 6th at the DMC Durfee High School auditorium.

I just returned from over a week in Fall River and attended the Saturday night performance, August 6th.   The only annoying thing I have to say is about the play’s title itself.  Of course, we all know it was a hatchet and not an axe.  But that aside I’m so sick of this phrase….it’s been used in documentaries, short essays, other plays, etc., etc.  “Lizzie Borden Took a Hatchet” would have been better at the very least.   Okay, that’s done.

(Click on image and use your “magnifying glass” feature to read text).

The play delivers absolutely all it says in the program.  Most all voice-overs were lifted verbatim directly from inquest, preliminary or trial testimony.  The play manages to interject the incest theory in a way that will give you pause for re-consideration if you’ve never bought into it before.

What I particularly liked was that the characfers, exceptt for Uncle John Morse, were age appropriate.  Even Carmen Viviano-Grafts bore a striking resemblance to Emma Borden from the most known photo of her.  She played Emma with just the right mixture of loyal and nurturing sister coupled with what we know to be Emma’s own fierce dislike of her stepmother.

Garrett Heater, writer/director, did a very, VERY good job interjecting the more known theories such as a possible daliance twixt Lizzie and Dr. Bowen.  The later played by Jordan Glaski was excellent in conveying his concern for Lizzie,while suspending your belief in his actually BEING a doctor.  His portrayal was consistent in the professionalism of his character but was subtle enough in keeping you guessing about their true relationship – again a credit to writing as well as delivery.

Kate Huddleston played Abby Borden and her portrayal was remenisent of Abby’s character in the 1975 Legend of Lizzie Borden made-for-tv movie.  Often shrill, always unappealing, a person not well read on the case would believe she was just as portrayed.  Poor Abby gets a bad rap because there’s nothing to validate she was anything but kind to those girls for as long as possible.  Kate does a terrific job in showing her loyalty to her husband while still conveying her strong interest in the legacy of his money.  We can understand her, we can even sympathize with the burdens she endured, but we do not like her.  Kudos to Kate!  Not an easy role.

The primary character, of course, is Lizzie and her part was played beautifully by Katharine Gibson.  Through dialog we understand why she hated Abby, through acting and writiing we are never certain as to whether or not she did it.  Her particular acting chops, I think, came out when her father wants to take her “down to the basement”, an obvious location and metaphor for sexual abuse.  We know she is 32, we know her father dominates.  But Ms. Gibson does such a wonderful job we find it totally credible that it just very well may have happened that way – thus, explaining the rage of the act, if you choose to believe Lizzie guilty.  Katharine was the obvious standout performer of the cast but I tend to think their talents fed into her own.

The set was minimalistic but seemed to be so much more because of the staging.  (Thus, less is more.)  The use of lighting was exceptional during the two periods of time of the slaying.  Bright red lighting as the backdrop to intense music, leaving much to the imagination and leaving the audience to imagine an intruder, Lizzie or an unamed other.  Totally plausible.  Totally believable.  Strong stuff and very well executed.

My favorite part of the entire play was a monolog delivered by “Andrew” in the second act.  Played by Bernard Kaplan he speaks of “what your mother would have wanted  for you” (meaning their real mother) in a suspended state with Lizzie and Emma frozen on stage.  The writing here was absolutely terrific.  It had me riveted throughout and stayed with me for days.  In fact, as I write this, I am still haunted by it.  Beautiful wiriting, Garrett, and so well spoken by Mr. Kaplan. “Andrew” also did a very believable job when putting his lascivious hands on Lizzie and first coercing her, then demanding of her that she go “down to the basement”. Not an easy thing to do and it could have come out corny or clumsy but Bernard did it very well.

Beth Schmidt played Maggie with a most believable accent and was quite convincing; Susan Blumer made a good Churchill; C. J. Parsons equally as good as John Morse and Jodie Blaum gave us shades of Alice we may not have thought of before.  All in all, the entire cast was excellent.  The set was excellent.  The use of lighting and music was superb, but the writing – the writing which weaves so well the many threads of this tale was absolutely exceptional!!

I’ve seen several plays on the Borden case, including musicals, including a ballet, and so far, this is now my very favorite of all I’ve seen.  I would see it again.  And again.   And if YOU haven’t – you should.  Absolutely.   🙂

1 Comment

Posted by on August 10, 2011 in TV, Theatre & Film


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One response to “Play Review: Lizzie Borden Took An Axe

  1. Garrett Heater

    August 10, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    Wow Faye, thank you so much! It was my supreme goal to make this the ‘ulimate’ Lizzie play and I am glad I made you happy! The cast will be thrilled and I am too! You will be happy to know the play is being produced in Aurora, NY on November 10 and 11 in a brand new production with a brand new cast…Lizzie is on the move! 🙂


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