Directed by Jimmy McDermott
Wacky whimsical grand guignol
dark tale is a treat!
As part of Steppenwolf Theatre’s 2nd Annual Garage Rep, Strange Tree Theatre presents another of their unique theatre presentations. Filled with white-faced characters, period music and manically interesting staging (directed by Jimmy McDermott), The Three Faces of Doctor Crippen combines comic characterization of criminal events with a wacky look at the early 20th Century society. It is the story of one of the weirdest criminal investigations ever known. It is 1910 and the flamboyant Cora Crippen (Kate Nawrocki) mysteriously disappears from London society.
Her husband Hawley Crippen,played in three personae ( Public Crippen by Stuart Ritter; the Private Crippen by Scott Cupper; and the Fantasy Crippen by Matt Holzfeind) is the hen-pecked doctor of homeopathy who comes to realize that his second wife is a nasty and obnoxious show-biz want-to-be with little talent but much vanity. Cora makes the doctor’s life miserable.
Cora becomes a London society curiosity despite her terrible singing. She becomes a ‘regular’ at tea parties held by the threesome of society ladies who love to dress in red and black. Mrs. Nash (Carol Enoch), Mrs. Martinetti (Jenifer Henry), and Mrs. Harrison (Jennifer Marschand) befriend Cora and report her absence from society to the police.
When all three personalities of Dr. Crippen fall in love with their loyal, hard-working secretary Ethel Le Neve (Delia Baseman), they realize that they must get rid of Cora so they can be with Ethel.
In a series of wacky played grand guignol scenes, Doctor Crippen emerges as a calamitously dark comic tale of murder by the inept murders. The facts and details of Cora’s murder quickly become ripe for myth and legendary stories. The facts involve a sea chase, body mutilation and hearts in boxes; girls dressed as boys, poisoning and gun-shots; rhyming speech; fake mustaches, Marconis wireless telegraph messages; terrible vaudeville acts; betrayal; intrigue, mayhem, a bathtub full of body parts, and an attempt daring escape. All these ingredients are deftly blended by playwright Emily Schwartz and director Jimmy McDermott into a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seats mystery.
The Three Faces of Doctor Crippen features the whimsical, macabre style that has become the Strange Tree Theatre trade mark. You’ll laugh and groin and you’ll wonder what will happen next in this expertly produced and well-acted comic tale of love, murder and mutilation. The ensemble delivers the tale with aplomb. Strange Tree Theatre is an intoxicating different troupe with a zany theatrical outlook on storytelling.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 25, 2011
For full show information, check out The Three Faces of Doctor Crippen page at Theatre In Chicago.
As part of Steppenwolf Theatre’s 2ndAnnual Garage Rep checkout www.steppenwolf.org for details.