SOLD OUT! SOLD OUT! CALL FOR WAITING LIST!
“For Second Thought Theatre, turning away patrons by the dozens is a great problem to have….” A Second Thought Theatre creative driving force and playwright and director of the historical drama BOOTH, Steven Walters expresses sheer amazement at the overwhelming audience response to the original work, now in performance through June 16. “Co-author Erik Archilla and I are beyond overwhelmed at the audience response to BOOTH. People seem genuinely stimulated by the work and that’s such a rewarding, gratifying experience for me as a theater artist. . But there are still plenty of tickets left, so buy them in advance while you still can!”
This critic returned for a second viewing on June 2, an Industry “pay what you can” night; and thirty people with cash in hand could not get seats, a first for this small company. Don’t tarry if you want to see this edge-of-seat dramatic historical play that proves once again, ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.
TICKETS: 2TT.co or (866) 811-4111
Here are short human interest videos created by Second Thought’s John Wilkes Booth Montgomery Sutton, “In Booth’s Words”, via link to criticalrant content partner Theater Jones:
- And Second Thought’s documentary about the making of BOOTH: http://vimeo.com/96522379
Steven Walters’ and Erik Archilla’s BOOTH delivers a double-barreled shot of thespian payload that works both as a thrilling drama and an informative historical portrait. Taking place in the fast-paced, high energy world of spies, political intrigue and illicit romance of 19th century Washington DC, it provides a roller coaster ride, edge of your seat, stay focused to keep up with the rapidly twisting and unfolding plot experience. It offers a history lesson with intriguing parallels to our time, as it fills in the details of the conspiracy leading up to the 1865 assassination of President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth and the resulting events that led to his apprehension. It elicits a satisfying balance of performance realities with a wealth of thrills and food for thought.
The play languished for a decade, resting on the back burner from their college days at Baylor, until a 2013 grant from the Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund allowed Walters and Archilla to continue development of the project and stage this production. The detailed, time-consuming work of multiple rewrites and work-shopping the play under the guidance of Baylor theatre professor Stan Denman paid off. BOOTH never feels like a “book report” on stage; it never bogs down with stodgy, “educational theatre” linearity. The essence of strong, effective drama is conflict and resolution. From opening to final moment, conflict ripples and seethes across BOOTH’s clearly defined arc, with Steven Walters directing. All the play’s characters want something badly; they fight for it to the end, reflecting the historical record and becoming very human in the process.
As title character John Wilkes Booth, Montgomery Sutton uses his diverse, contrasting skills as a classical and contemporary actor to make this mythical “monster” flesh and blood. Most of us with a traditional US education remember Booth as a second-string actor in the shadow of his celebrated relative Edwin Booth and as a Confederate sympathizer who seized on an unfortunate opportunity, not much more.
Complex, resentful, a ladies’ man, a Narcissist and pro-slavery fanatic, he developed a fanatical obsession to kidnap President Lincoln and possibly the first known domestic terrorist cell in the US. Sutton cuts a deadly, romantic picture with exactingly duplicated facial hair and a B-grade actor swagger to match Booth in an uncanny doppelganger way. He plays the conniving mastermind, the catalyst behind the action as well as its prime actor with potent energy and maniacal focus. Some of the other Walters/Archilla characters need some fleshing out; others could use some edit. But all contribute to the arc of the work and its high drama. Mikaela Krantz gives a nuanced, sensually taut performance as Senator Hale’s daughter Lucy, Booth’s ostensible “love interest”, while R. Bruce Elliot reveals how little Washington politics has changed since the 1860’s as pompous, elitist Senator Hale. As Edwin Stanton, President Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Stan Denman reveals the capricious confusion of the balancing act between expediency and justice while portraying a man with no confusion about his loyalty to the office of US President and Democracy. In contract to Booth’s Tea-bagger like lunacy, Stanton’s fiery passion seems rational until conspirator arrests begin. (No spoiler, here. See it.) Denman is a consummate pro that completely inhabits a role and sweeps lesser actors along with committed gravitas. He owns the stage and presents a lyrical counterpoint to Sutton’s charismatic, mercurial Booth.
Set design by Aaron Jackson places the action on several levels in the round, within a rough-hewn, half burned out, high walled barn interior. Mostly this works effectively with the edgy script. Occasionally the scene shifts hurled from one corner to the next are hard to follow and seem more for the effect than necessary to the plot or character illumination. Costumes, by Jennifer Ables, suggest the era while select anachronistic choices (particularly with the women) help reinforce unsettling parallels with the divisive world of politics today.
BOOTH is launched, well on its way. I would love to see it in a different mounting, a few revisions down the road as it coalesces in scope and impact. For now, I’ll happily return to experience Second Thought Theatre’s solidly entertaining, dynamic production again. John Wilkes Booth would love to see himself center stage, treading the boards so eloquently en route to his well-deserved demise and eternal infamy.
A small quibble with Second Thought: I understand not wanting to incur the expense of programs. It would be awfully nice if we critics could receive a single printed sheet showing updated cast and key production team members as we take our seats. I have no idea who some cast members were or what characters they played, and it’s really helpful to know whose creative production work went into bringing the script to life, in the moment of witnessing it. Thanks for providing us with excellent seats.
Montgomery Sutton stars as John Wilkes Booth and Stan Denman joins him as Edwin Stanton, President Lincoln’s Secretary of War. Other members of the cast include Emily Scott Banks as Mrs. Surratt, Andrews Cope as Eckert, R Bruce Elliott as Senator Hale, Ian Ferguson as Arnold, Ted Gwara as O’Laughlin, Mikaela Krantz as Lucy, Frank Mosley as Atzerodt and Edwin, Aaron Roberts as Wells, Travis Stuebing as Surratt, Austin Terrell as Mudd, Brandon Sterrett as Payne and Drew Wall as Herold
The PWYC performances of BOOTH will take place Wednesday, May 21; Thursday, May 22; Monday, May 26; Monday, June 2 and Monday, June 9 at 7:30pm. PWYC tickets are available at the box office the day of the performance only and are subject to availability. Tickets to the PWYC performance can be reserved at the regular ticket price online at 2TT.co. BOOTH runs through June 16. Tickets for BOOTH are on sale now and are available online at 2TT.co or by phone at (866) 811-4111.
Photos by Ellen Appel