BWW Review: MURDER BALLAD at 5th Wall Theatre
*Review by Brent Deekens
True to their slogan "Theatre Beyond Boundaries," director Lucian Restivo and the personnel at 5th Wall have executed (pun intended) a distinctly immersive theatrical gambit with pulverizing marks. By staging Murder Ballad entirely within the confines of the main room at Club Infuzion in Scott's Addition (as per the original Off-Broadway production's cue to venue selection), the audience is treated to a 360 degree display of four spellbinding actors belting out booming rock tunes whilst weaving around and about the respective patrons' tables and sitting areas.
Before continuing on, please allow for a quick note on procedure given as to the uniqueness of this production's particular locale:
The doors open at 6:30 PM with dinner and refreshments served until the show starts at 7:30 PM. The food is tasty and reasonable so my suggestion is to arrive promptly at 6:30 and immediately order. Furthermore, and this is important: in this hour-long window of opportunity, use the restrooms as much as is needed! Once the show starts, it is a 90 minute sing-through without an intermission. Now, patrons are allowed to use the facilities if an emergency trip is ineluctable. However, you're decidedly not going to want to do this and possibly disrupt the ever-constant flow of the show's blocking, so heed this tip accordingly. Lastly, underage spectators (within reason) are welcome to attend, sans alcoholic libations of course.
Now back to the show itself. For those unfamiliar with the show's history or its story and characters... try keeping it that way until witnessing this firsthand.
Though operas as old as Dafne have relied on publicly-produced librettos to aid in the observers' understanding of a theatrical piece told completely through song, such research will not be necessary for Murder Ballad. Trust me; go into this with an application of tabula rasa! From the play's start, the actors will tell you everything you need to know about this simple and precariously dark love story.
And what an undertaking these actors have achieved! Each of their voices is first-rate as they smoothly apply nuance into each of their distinct characters. Chris Hester is completely believable in his portrayal of a worldly but passionate academic. Katrinah Carol Lewis nimbly balances feelings of lust and regret as an aimless soul in search of meaning. Durron Tyre is ardent, touching and even foreboding as the hankering bar owner (hence the venue). And the spritely omnipresence of Rachel Rose Gilmour is rapt with zest, especially given her laser-intense gaze directed at the audience.
Which brings me to a special note in regards to acting in such close proximity to an audience (even going so far as to look at or engage with said onlookers): it is a vastly different beast to tame. While I am unable to comment without invoking my own personal experiences with acting in such an intimate manner alongside unfamiliar faces, further accolades should be bestowed to these four thespians for mustering the consummate concentration it takes to pull off such a feat!
Further compliments go to Kim Fox's adroit musical direction and her orchestra (abetted by Joey Luck's sound design) that serviceably never once out-blared the vocals on the floor. Michael Jarrett's lighting also provided atmospheric touches across the capacious layout.
In closing, favor this vigorous theatrical experience by adhering to the aforementioned procedural dealings before attending Murder Ballad. And by all means: go in hungry, literally and emotionally. You are sure to leave full... in every sense of the word.
Murder Ballad plays through the 18th of November.