BWW Review: THE BUTCHER OF BARABOO at Street Corner Arts is Cozy Yet Sinister
Pull out your best butcher knife, pour yourself a steaming cup of coffee, and prance over to the Hyde Park Theatre to experience Street Corner Arts' production of THE BUTCHER OF BARABOO. Playwright Marisa Wegrzyn fashions a colorful world where the snow is white, the blood is red, and the humor is as black as the coffee brewing in the pot.
As a murder mystery taking place in snowy Wisconsin with a heavily accented female cop, I couldn't help but compare THE BUTCHER OF BARABOO to the 1996 film Fargo, directed the Coen Brothers. But Wegrzyn's uproarious script, together with Director Carlo Lorenzo Garcia's cozy staging, allows this production stand on its own two feet.
THE BUTCHER OF BARABOO weaves a complicated web of relationships, anger, and revenge into one family still grieving over the death of their brother, Frank. The only person who curiously doesn't seem to be mourning is Frank's widow, Valerie (Joy Cunningham). Valerie spends her days sharpening her butcher knives and pestering her 32-year-old free-loading daughter, Midge (Natalie Garcia). But when Valerie's brother in law Donal (Greg Ginther) moves next door with his paranoid wife Sevenly (Kelsey Mazak), dormant emotions awake and each dark family secret will soon be revealed.
Each actor serves up top-notch performances, full of pleasant malevolence with a lovely helping of midwestern charm. But the real standout is dimwitted cop and Valerie's sister in law, Gail, played by the fabulous Amber Quick. She nails the nuance of her bumbling character, and once she's made her entrance, you know she's going to steal every scene she's in. Quick perfectly balances Gail's inner turmoil with her dark yet comical solutions to ease this turmoil. Her delivery of each line and riotous physical comedy barrel through the audience, leaving them doubled over with laughter. And they'll never look at a bowl of Cocoa Puffs the same way again.
But THE BUTCHER OF BARABOO wouldn't be what it is without the physical set the actors inhabit. Set designers Carlo Lorenzo Garcia and Zac Thomas create one of the most realistic, detailed sets I've seen yet. Sometimes it's hard to tell where the audience ends and the stage begins as they've utterly transformed the Hyde Park Theatre into a rural midwestern kitchen without a trace of artificiality.
Though it's able to overcome some inconsistent pacing throughout, the production unfortunately stumbles near the end. It clumsily ties up loose ends that don't seem to go anywhere and unclear motivations cause the ending to feel strange and simply unsatisfying. But all in all THE BUTCHER OF BARABOO's strong performances, hilarious dialogue, and cozy yet sinister atmosphere make it the ideal winter play to catch this holiday season.
Poster Design and Photo Credit: Carlo Lorenzo Garcia
Thursdays - Saturdays at 8 p.m.
December 06 - December 21, 2019
Ticket $17 and $22, plus service fee, available online HERE