Immersive SPEAKEASY DOLLHOUSE: THE BLOODY BEGINNING to Return to Weylin
Transporting audiences to an era of mobsters, moonshine, and murder, one of the city's most unique, interactive, and surreal theatre experiences returns at Weylin, the newly restorEd Williamsburg Savings Bank landmark building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The Speakeasy Dollhouse: The Bloody Beginning experience begins with a series of exclusive emails featuring actual 1935 news articles, court documents, and autopsy reports. Audience members also receive special instructions to show up dressed for a 1930's night on the town at a secret entryway, including the password they will need to enter. Upon arrival, each audience member is met by a fortune teller who reads their palm and assigns them a role. They are then transported into a speakeasy where they eat cannoli, play cards with gangsters, sip hooch disguised in coffee cups, mingle with mafia molls - and witness a shooting, funeral, murder investigation, and trial.
Replete with live jazz by Howard Fishman and his band, burlesque dancers, and real moonshine, the production offers up a meticulously detailed slice of New York City history.
Speakeasy Dollhouse is the brainchild of artist and author Cynthia Von Buhler, whose Italian immigrant grandfather, a speakeasy owner named Frank Spano, was shot and killed on a New York City street in 1935. Though the shooter was caught, his case was inexplicably dismissed, leaving the question of motive forever unanswered.
Long haunted by the mystery, von Buhler, whose mother was born the day her grandfather died, began interviewing family members about the killing and scouring autopsy reports, police records, and court documents. Inspired by a 1940s investigative technique called "nutshell studies," von Buhler first recreated the crime scene in an elaborate dollhouse diorama that can be explored during each performance.
In Speakeasy Dollhouse: The Bloody Beginning, originally conceived in 2011 as a one-night-only event, Von Buhler brought her miniature set to life at mobster Meyer Lansky's former speakeasy, The Back Room. Originally funded via a Kickstarter campaign, The Bloody Beginning soon became a hot underground theater ticket, selling out regularly and attracting a roster of guest actors from Broadway and hit television shows like FX's The Americans and HBO's Boardwalk Empire. In 2012, von Buhler's investigation was featured in The New York Times (Using a Dollhouse to Recontruct a Murder, 77 Years Later). The Bloody Beginning ran for four consecutive years and sparked two other immersive plays, Speakeasy Dollhouse: The Brothers Booth at Edwin Booth's mansion on Gramercy Park (2014) and Speakeasy Dollhouse: Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic at Liberty Theater, a long-hidden Broadway venue in Times Square (2015). This July, von Buhler brings the unsolved Prohibition-era murder of her grandfather to life once again in a historic new home, Weylin.
In addition to different themes each month (July is "Gossip" and August is "Money"), each show explores a different motive behind the murder, from jealousy over a suspected affair to a Mafia hit. As Audience members meander through a speakeasy bar, a bank vault, an autopsy room, a bootlegging bathroom, an office and take a birdcage elevator to the Spano's apartment, they are privy to conversations and whispered snippets from cast members about the victim's marital infidelities, mob connections, and other clues. The piece is constantly evolving based on new scenarios sparked by spontaneous interactions between cast members and guests, who are encouraged to become full- fledged participants in the unfolding drama. Von Buhler is using discoveries and research culled from the performances for a book she is writing on the murder.
"Speakeasy Dollhouse plays are more than just theater - they are time capsules which transport audiences to the scene of a riveting crime and then invites them to live fully in that world, erasing the boundary between themselves and the performers," said von Buhler.
Starring: Russell Farhang (Frank Spano), Dana McDonald (Mary Spano), Rachel Boyadjis (Dom Spano), Vincent Cinque (John Guerrieri), Travis Moore (Dutch Shultz), Celeste Hudson (Lucrezia Guerreri), Maria Rusolo/Pearls Daily (Frances Flegenheimer), Lord Kat (Hulon Capshaw), Charley Layton (Jimmy Hines), Katie Kat (Millie Nelba), Justin Moore (Detective Crane), Luka Fric (Officer Dempsey), Uncle Nino (Dominick Grimaldi), PJ Mead (Teenage Cynthia), Jordana Rollerhoops (Fortune Teller), Paul Duncan (Dr. Gonzales), Robyn Adele Anderson (Bessie Stitch), Delysia La Chatte (Dancer, Corpse), Kat Mon Dieu (Lena Doino), Nelson Lugo (Cousin Frankie Spano), Eden Atencio (Anna Spano), Glen Heroy (Lulu Rosencrantz), Cliff Fuller (Corpse), Ariel Wolf (Cannoli Girl, Corpse, Elevator Operator), Jenny Harder (Hostess), Howard Fishman/Matt Musselman (Band Leader), Chris Ignacio (Corpse, Production Assistant), Writer/Director/Set Designer: Cynthia Von Buhler, Associate Director/ Company Manager: PJ Mead, Produced by Smoosh & Smoosh, Inc.
IF YOU GO:
Speakeasy Dollhouse: The Bloody Beginning, an immersive theatre experience
Friday, July 22, 2016
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Friday, August 12, 2016
Saturday, August 13, 2016
Time: 8PM - 11PM
Where: Weylin, 173 Broadway, Williamsburg, NYC
Phone: Speakeasy Dollhouse: (646) 221-5239; The Weylin (718) 963-3639
Cost: $60 (regular admission), $120 (Ten VIP admission - no waiting in line, table seating, champagne toast), $200 (Two VIM admission (Very Important Murderer) - same as VIP with a murderer role)
Tickets (advance only): 1-800-838-3006 or online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2554772