Sunday, 21 September 2014 08:04

Blood Privilege

Blood Privilege Play Review


Written by Karin Crighton

At the Richmond Shepard Theatre through February 24

 

 

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Directed by Andy McQuade
Written by Don Fried
2-hour running time; one 15-minute intermission
February 6 - 24, additional dates in London

 

Starring:

Jessie Komitor as Elizabeth (Erzsébeth) Bathory

Mark Binet as Cuyorgy Thurzo

Rachel Tate as Katalin

John D’Arcangelo as King Matthias

Heather Lee Harper as Szilva

Andrew Rothkin as Ferenc Nadasdy/Pataky

J. B. Alexander as Lorand Sigray

 

 

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Review:

 

Don Fried’s new play Blood Privilege is a feminist powerhouse; the Countess Elizabeth Batony could be the Hedda Gabler of 16th Century Hungary, with equally tragic outcomes.

 

I was fortunate enough to be invited to review Mr. Fried’s play at the Richmond Shephard Theatre on East 26th Street for HorrorTalk, as the play was based on a surprisingly horrific true story. The legend surrounding Countess Elizabeth Báthony, pronounced Erzsébet, claims that she murdered hundreds of young girls to bathe in their youth-retaining virgin blood. While the playwright sides against historical documents surrounding the legend that the “bloodbaths” to maintain her beauty, he certainly agrees they were used to defame her reputation and destroy her power over the King. Even so, the mystery over her motive doesn’t lessen her guilt of the deaths or the pity for why she turned to cruelty in the first place.

 

The Shepard Theatre production is a showcase for lead actress Jessie Komitor, who handles her role as the doomed Countess with deft skill. She commands the stage each scene in which she appears, quickly eclipsing the other actors. I give credit to Andrew Rothkin, who plays both her tyrannical husband of convenience, Ferenc Nadasdy and her beautician-physician Pataky. He made such vastly different choices for each character I had to check my program to make sure I was watching the same man. Mr. Fried’s words would have benefitted from tighter direction. The men were not as clear as the women in what they wanted; their scenes without Erzsébet present tended to drag. The multiple concepts of powerful men conspiring to take down a powerful woman, a powerful woman using her wiles to destroy weaker women, even how Erzsébet became obsessed with young and beauty, seemed under-realized. Several moments where life-shattering truths are discovered go by without impact, and a mirror-trick that is conceptually clever was clumsily executed.

 

It must be said that Blood Privilege is very smart and very funny. Mr. Fried writes with a dry wit that had me laughing in my seat, although most often times alone. The actors did their best to catch those moments, especially J. B. Alexander as the monarchy-influenced judge Lorand Sigray, so perhaps I ought to blame a typical American audience for missing all the light moments built into this dark tale.

 

If you can catch Blood Privilege for its remaining run through February 24th, I highly recommend it. I certainly hope his British audiences in their upcoming London engagement will appreciate this show as much as I did. Tickets for Blood Privilege are available at Brown Paper Tickets.

 

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Grades:

 

 
Play: threeandahalfstars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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