Review: BIRTH OF A MURDERER at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre

This edgy new production runs through June 10th

By: Jun. 05, 2023
Review: BIRTH OF A MURDERER at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre
Review: BIRTH OF A MURDERER at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre

There is beauty in the complexities a writer takes into their work. Birthing a story for audiences to enjoy is one thing. However, the ability to create a piece that not only entertains but also says something that brings the jarring affect of discomfort to its audience is what most would define as truly a work of art. Darian Lane’s Birth of a Murderer at Desert Stages Theatre does a masterful job of bringing together these elements in an arguably edgier piece than The Valley of the Sun gets to witness.

Birth of a Murderer is a complex story of romance, race, and a splash of thriller. Without giving away the entire plot, we follow Robert Wainwright, a black playwright and college student, and his relationship with his white girlfriend, fellow student Lilith McEntire. Robert’s spiral out of control and into obsessiveness brings their relationship to an unnerving end as his actions become polarizing to his own moral compass.  The question arises within this “villain arc” where we ask if Robert’s turn was found in the warnings his father gave him before getting to college or if his demise was an awakening of something much more deep-rooted.

Fashioned on a simple set with lighting creating depth and furthering moods in scenes, this play is driven by two phenomenal actors. Michael Bundy II (Dionysus Award Nominee) is fantastic as Robert Wainwright. This play is steered by Bundy’s ability to seamlessly break the third wall as the show’s narrator and then return to scenes consistently throughout the performance. His character, Robert, is pseudo-cringy as well as exasperating at points. However, Robert is built to be likable which keeps audience members hoping for redeemable moments. Emmy Robinson (Legally Blonde, Into the Woods) is amazing as Lilith McEntire. Robinson’s presence fills the stage each time she enters, progressing the story in mood and emotion. Her Lilith comes off as inviting, with an almost flippant attitude that builds.   Robinson and Bundy’s chemistry is magnificent. In love and as well as in conflict, the two are magnetic, breeding excitement at their entrances. Also, their continuation of the show’s comedic progression is a very nice addition.

The piece is beautifully written. Full of complexities and uncomfortable conversations including race and social behavioral norms. Writer Darian Lane (The Hitchhiking Game, Flesh & Bone, Birth of a Murderer) is a talent, creating black art that isn’t primarily stuck in portraying the “Black Experience.” The writing in the first half of the first act came across as jilted, with the focus becoming hard to find. Although mentioned by the show’s main character saying in so many words that this play was about more than just race, there was an extensive amount of dialogue during that time that would prove otherwise. The second act, however, truly finds its stride as Lane seems to stray from making a point and falls more into telling a story about the human experience while being Black, which is profoundly impactful. As a whole, the message of the play felt as if it were at odds with each other. There should always be space to converse about race and the myriad of ways that it infiltrates spaces BIPOC individuals occupy such as education, at home, and in romantic endeavors. However, the message seems at odds with the scenes as they occurred. Overall, there are some truly poignant and proactive moments encased in beautiful dialogue. There may be some development to be desired, however, Lane makes up for that in the punches he throws.

Birth of a Murderer will continue at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre through June 10th. Be sure not to miss this sensational show.


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From This Author - Nathaniel Jones

Nathaniel Jones is a fictional author, poet, lyricist, and performer in the Phoenix valley. Originally from Pasadena, CA, Nathaniel grew in his love for the arts at Blair High School and later honed h... (read more about this author)


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