His unbridled vanity flowing through his wavy mane, Edwin Booth (Jared McDaris) paces his backstage dressing chamber running his lines for his next performance of Richard III, a routine piece in his repertory. His motivation, not quite as strong as his ambition we find out later, can’t drown out his reflections on his life clanging in the back of his mind. Booth’s tortured faculties lament his past, present and future, interrupting his rehearsal frequently and pitifully.
The woefully state of Booth’s id, ushered to peril by the ghosts of his infamous brother John Wilkes Booth (Corey Jefferson Hagen) and his first wife and muse Molly (Andrea Burkholder) further pestered by his misfortunate second wife Mary Vickers Booth (Marcee Daugherty-Elst), eventually gets jolted by an encounter with deranged eccentric Mark Gray… Esq.
Angela Iannone brings us The Prison Where I Live, another well thought out drama centered on internationally renowned actor Edwin Booth. Innone, a cardinal in the cult of Edwin Booth, delivers a extremely well-sourced two-act that runs like a live-action profile piece, chalked full of historically relevant contextual references and subtle wordplay found in all brilliant dialog. The Prison Where I Live follows Iannone’s 2015 debut original work Seeds of Banquo which depicted Booth at the pinnacle of his acting prowess. In The Prison Where I Live we see Booth at a lower moment in his trajectory.
Booth a Gilded Age a-list thespian that featured on the highest profile stages around the US and Great Britain, mostly delivering performances of Shakespeare’s canon, known when in his element for his unflappable if not stilted persona. Booth appears here as fragile and more weathered than what we knew of his public image, we find out his looks have good reason. Iannone’s work here squeezes tension out of this natural contrast incumbent to celebrities, brought to bear when confronted with the fanatical appearance of Mark Gray (Brandon Haut). Gray entwines Booth’s attention with his own uninvited interpolations of Booth’s character and ambitions, which culminates to a flash point between the two that usually happens when fame meets obsessed stranger.
Big Stage Quality in Quaint Spaces
As the infamous Wilkes Booth, Hagen gives an inspired and spirited portrayal of a buoyant and bulldozing grifter. Booth’s second wife comes to life through Daugherty-Elst’s notable ability to fill out otherwise weak and hard-to-like characters. McDaris has the difficult task of portraying Edwin Booth as a complex and vulnerable personality, convincing the audience of both. Haut’s play as Mark Gray steals the show as he exudes the cold cunning of an unshakable sociopath.
The Prison Where I Live continued Theater Red’s success producing high-quality independent theatre for Milwaukee’s small stages and closed The Prison Where I Live September 9 with a afternoon matinee at In Tandem Theatre.
Well-deserve production credits go to Leah Dueno (Costume Design), Alan Piotrowicz (Lighting and Sound Design), Christopher Elst (Scenic Design and Stage Management), and Eric Welch (Hair and Makeup Design).