BWW Review: BUTCHER HOLLER HERE WE COME is a One Of A Kind Sensory Experience
NYC theatre company Aztec Economy teams with Austin theatre company Theatre Synesthesia to present Casey Wimpee's play BUTCHER HOLLER HERE WE COME in this Austin premiere production. Directed by Leah Bonvissuto, who directed the original NY production, the play is a seventy five minute sensory experience about five coal miners who are trapped in a cave in. Set in 1973, West Virginia, BUTCHER HOLLER HERE WE COME, is a startling look at the male psyche-in-crisis. As these five coal miners struggle to overcome a dwindling supply of oxygen and the lack of food and water, it becomes clear that the biggest obstacles they face are their own competing natures. Director Bonvissuto has done a masterful job here of creating an immersive event.
While the piece isn't traditional in structure, that is one of the strongest features of the piece. As an audience, we are plunged into total darkness along with the performers. Much of the piece is performed in this darkness with extended moments of light provided only by the headlamps of the characters. Director Bonvissuto has not only directed the performers, she has also directed the small lights and the sounds. The sound happens all around you, sometimes in front, sometimes directly behind you and other times off to the distance. The end result places the audience in the mine with the characters in a way that a traditionally scripted play never could. This is a once in a lifetime sensory experience that both thrills and chills as secret desires, carnal urges, and hidden memories come boiling to the surface. As the play processes an air of hallucination begins to take hold that is stunning in the effect it has on us as an audience. Total darkness has an unsettling effect, a fact Wimpee uses brilliantly.
The text itself is mostly a series of struggles and revelations of the five men. You are never quite sure if what you are experiencing is true or a fever dream of one of the characters. Also one is never quite sure is someone has died or is a hallucination. What is clear is the power of this simulation to let you sense just how horrible this situation might be to experience. During the play, Wimpee weaves into the crisis at hand family histories, complicated friendships, crooked politics, visions, hopes, dreams, addictions, and even spirituality.
The cast of the piece are uniformly excellent. Cole Wimpee, as Jet Delahunt, and Michael Mason, as Keith "K-Bus" Busby, are standouts. Delahunt may be responsible for the situation the men are in. Busby has become unhinged from snorting animal tranquilizers. The showdown between the two men, in a deranged round of a game reminiscent of "Name That Tune", is breathtaking in the sense of fear and dread that it raises in the audience. Rounding out the cast is Isaac Byrne, as Henry " Hiccup "; Adam Laten Wilson, as Leander Pope; and Colt W. Keeney, as Muskie Pope.
In short, BUTCHER HOLLER HERE WE COME is catharic theatrical experience that is not to be missed. My highest recommendation for this play that allows you to have an experience unavailable anywhere else. This is a play to be experienced, rather than followed. Just let it wash over you.
BUTCHER HOLLER HERE WE COME by Casey Wimpee
Running Time: 75 minutes
Produced by Theatre Synesthesia, at First Street Studio (2400 E. Cesar Chavez, Suite 202, Austin, TX, 78702).
Thursdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m., May 18-20, 25-27, June 1-3, June 8-10, 2017.
Tickets range from $15.00 plus service fee (advance sales) to $20.00 (at the door), and are now available online via Brown Paper Tickets or by calling 1-800-838- 3006. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the theater 1⁄2 hour prior to performance.
Watch the trailer: https://youtu.be/c7EScYzGCgg