Review: Blood Relations (Alumnae Theatre Company)

blood relations

Blood Relations takes a chilling look into the Lizzie Borden murders at the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto

Alumnae Theatre‘s latest production, Blood Relations, takes on the infamous and bloody tale of Lizzie Borden, the young lady who was tried and later acquitted of the murders of her father and stepmother in 1892, and projects it ten years in the future. In this imagined future, Lizzie and her friend and lover, known only as “Actress”, play a mind game where Actress takes a stroll in Lizzie’s shoes during those critical few weeks leading up to the murder in order to answer the question ‘could Lizzie have done it?’

It was this very interesting take on the famous murder case that instantly piqued my curiosity having long been fascinated by the trial. Having now seen this production, I can honestly say I was blown away.

It is not hard to learn the details of the Lizzie Borden case as there have been countless books and movies created on the subject, in fact Christina Ricci starred in the most recent adaptation that was released last year. Even if this case is new territory for you, a working knowledge of the details isn’t necessary — Lizzie and her Actress friend play out the dizzying events in raw detail.

And it’s watching the story playing out that has truly left me stunned, the vast amounts of raw emotion left for the audience to soak in is at times almost too much to take in. This can be a very difficult performance to watch but allow me to say, it’s worth it.

The heart and soul of this production is Actress (played by Andrea Brown) who, after spending close and intimate time with Lizzie (Marisa King), has found herself asking the dangling question that the citizens of Fall River, Massachusetts have been asking since the acquittal, did Lizzie do it? This prompts Lizzie to suggest the mind game to provide her answer of ‘I won’t say if I did it, but by doing this you’ll be able to see how I could have done it’. What the audience is left with is the story of a young woman trapped like a caged animal and desperate to get out. Brown portrays this remarkably. All across the board, the performances were outstanding but Brown simply nailed it.

Vance, my date for the evening, noted that though both Brown and King did fantastic work when playing out the scenes during the mind game (where King took on the role of the maid Bridget), their interactions during in the “real world” outside of the mind game felt stiff and unconnected, which I do have to agree with. He also noted that there were a number of lines in the introduction that were actually funny but due to poor pacing in the delivery, the humor was lost on the audience.

The execution of Blood Relations was also incredibly well done, hats off to director Barbara Larose for a fantastic job. From how the cast was able to make use of the full stage to their timing and even the simple act of having actors in the background standing behind transparent drapes, was quite effective. Ed Rosing’s set design was also a delight to see.

Blood Relations is rich and sumptuous theatre that is emotionally wrenching and hard-hitting. Though it may not be for the faint of heart, this is a performance that you will surely not regret seeing.

Details:

  • Blood Relations is playing at the Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street) until February 7, 2015.
  • Performances are at 8 pm Wednesday to Saturday with 2 pm matinees on Sunday.
  • Tickets are two for the price of one on Wednesday performances, $20 Thursday to Friday performances, and Sunday matinees are PWYC.
  • Tickets can be purchased online or reserved by phone at 416 364 4170 or by emailing reservations@alumnaetheatre.com.
  • Please note that there is a 15-minute intermission.

Photo of Marissa King and Rob Candy by Dahlia Katz.

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