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Review: Ghost Light Theatrics' THE BIG BAD is Brechtian, Bloody, and Breathtaking

Jessica Stepka and Jordan Moeller in
"The Big Bad"
Photo credit: Joe Iano

Words truly cannot do Ghost Light Theatricals' "The Big Bad" justice. The best analogy I can conjure: a feminist circus where the clowns rip their hearts out in solidarity. It's no surprise that this little gem won the 2016 Battle of the Bards. Directed by Eddie DeHais, the collective DangerSwitch! conceived and created this ten-course meal of theatrical storytelling, using dance, puppetry, clowning, shadow play, and varying physical styles to unpack the female experience.

This feels like a fleeting production. Truly, I cannot fathom how this show could be done again, given how tailored the roles were to the people playing them. Though all participants are accredited as "ensemble", in the show, Zane Exactly is called Zane, Marcus Gorman is called Marcus, Alyza DelPan-Monley is called Alyza, Jordan Moeller is called Jordan, and Jessica Stepka is called Jess. This Brechtian production sure makes it hard for the audience to tell where the artifice stops and reality starts.

There is a narrative, and quite a cohesive one: an empowering, hypothetical thought experiment where the women in Little Red Riding Hood (and the generations of women before them) get to tell their side of the story. But it does so in a way that's poetic, poignant, and macabre. Ebbing and flowing from one form of expression to the next, it's impossible to tell where the artifice ends and reality begins. It's abstract but powerful, delicate but foreboding. It's performance art without an iota of self-congratulation. It feels like the truth.

The ensemble tells you that they have "no respect for the fourth wall," but respect any audience member decision to not participate or need to leave. "The Big Bad" cultivates a safe space, encouraging those who may be triggered by the subject matter to quietly exit. This is a small courtesy that I hope to see more of in modern theatre.

Jessica Stepka, Alyza Delpan-Monley, Zane Exactly, and Marcus Gorman
Photo credit: Joe Iano

The show that I saw may be completely different than the show you see: this show explores themes of a woman's suppression, guilt, body dysmorphia, and shame, as well as how women harness their power. Society is amidst more political turmoil than when I saw it last weekend, which makes this show even more relevant, and precious.

This isn't a cast: it's a family. It's a well-oiled machine. It's a gutted fish. The vulnerability and honesty of the cast is palpable, from beginning to end.

My one, small issue: the show claims to be 90 minutes long, but it runs much closer to two hours. But who knows: I really couldn't tell you how much of the production was improvised. It's possible that the duration varies from production to production. This is a grounding piece of art that, if you're willing to be vulnerable with them, will bring you to tears.

I want to keep this brief for two reasons: because I was too enthralled to take proper notes, and it's creativity is ineffable. This is the kind of theatre we all need right now. I give Ghost Light Theatricals' and DangerSwitch!'s collaboration "The Big Bad" 5/5 stars.

"The Big Bad" performs at The Ballard Underground through November 19th, 2016. For tickets and information, visit them online at

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