Theater archives

Lizzie Borden Not Bad for a Hatchet Job


In his closing speech, Lizzie Borden’s defense attorney addressed the jury, saying, “To find her guilty, you must believe she is a fiend. Gentlemen, does she look it?” Well, yes—at least according to Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Tim Maner, and Alan Stevens Hewitt’s musical Lizzie Borden, in which the accused appears as a goth princess with blood on her hands (and arms, face, and neck). Lest we harbor any doubt as to her culpability, they supply a song titled “Somebody Will Do Something,” during which Lizzie (Jenny Fellner) scurries off behind a scrim and wields her ax in sanguinary fashion.

Despite lacking any did-she-or-didn’t-she drama, Lizzie Borden does supply other excitements: It offers an incest motive for the crimes (expressed uncomfortably in song) and conjures a lesbian romance with neighbor and hostile trial witness Alice Russell (Marie-France Arcilla). It also features pleasantly outré make-up (Carrie Lynn Rohm) and costumes (Bobby Frederick Tilley II), including a red dress for Lizzie with a skirt slit gynecologically high. The narrative is overstated and the characterization broad (more a fault of director Maner than of the actors), but the punky songs and cast energies are agreeably amplified. Not bad for a hatchet job.