November 3, 2016

Lizzie ~ November 3, 2016 @ Center Stage Theater

The Devastation of a Little Girl


Contemporary musical theater is not a new phenomenon; musicals have been around for ages. However, hard rock musical theater is a bit newer, and quite a bit more electrifying. 

Lizzie, an Out of the Box Theatre Company presentation, tells the story of a young Lizzie Borden just days before the infamous brutal death of her father and stepfather in 1892. Written by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt, and Tim Maner, the story reasonably portrays the facts of the events, while taking some liberties in the story in between. Not a light hearted story, they portray the gruesome events with vivid imagery set to the back ground of hard, close to punk, rock, giving the story a deeper sense of insanity.

The cast is what makes this musical event stand out.  Katie Moya plays Lizzie, Amy Soriano-Palagi plays Lizzie’s sister Emma, Sydney Wesson plays their neighbor Alice, and Samantha Corbett plays the maid Bridgett (sometimes called Maggie).  The four of them create a rock opera event like no other. Accompanied by a live four-piece band set behind a curtain on a stage with a choice few props, the show centers entirely on the girls; their emotions, reactions, and interactions with each other. Together they tell the heart wrenching yet brutal story of the deterioration of a young girl as she slips deeply into darkness. 

Act 1 is one of innocence lost. Lizzie visibly struggles with the “secret” of her family, which is implied carefully through hints and innuendoes via songs in a very punk rock fashion, more Sonic Youth’s “Kool Thing” than West Side Story’s “I Feel Pretty.”  Feet stomping, clutching the mic stand, Lizzie screams “Why are all these heads off?” as the light of innocence visibly leaves her after her father brutally chops off the heads off her beloved pets. Lizzie’s world gets darker. All violence is implied in the background but seen in the anguish in the violence of the songs throughout the act. The intensity, complexity, beauty, and violence build until Lizzie goes mad, culminating in the ensemble gathering together in the beautifully poignant and painful “Mercury Rising” musical piece consisting of no words, only moans of loss. Then murder...

Act 2 is the emergence of a new Lizzie, a darker one. All four
ladies appear in period appropriate under garments and heavy, somewhat whorish, makeup. Perhaps to portray how hot it is in August, but most likely to demonstrate their power as females in their new world. It’s all in the interpretation. There are reprisals of songs from Act 1, but their meanings are reversed in this inverted world. Intricately intertwined within new lyrics, the twisted new world of Lizzie Borden is revealed. No longer the innocent victim, Lizzie is now a monster herself, wickedly commanding attention and getting her way, again in a very punk rock fashion.  Lizzie counted down her days in jail until pay day upon her release in “Thirteen Days in Taunton,” once again clutching the mic stand and stomping her foot. Then the verdict…

Historically accurate (cuz I fact-checked immediately), Lizzie stoked the fire of interest in the historical events surrounding the scandal of Lizzie Borden. Executed craftily through the use of provocative lyrics and hard rock, the lesson in history was quite painless and somewhat subliminal. The lesson was painless, but not the devastation.