BWW Review: FEEDING BEATRICE World Premiere at The Rep Is a Gothic Horror Version of The American Dream

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BWW Review: FEEDING BEATRICE World Premiere at The Rep Is a Gothic Horror Version of The American Dream
Photo by Jon Gitchoff

What you'll find at the end of a long, foggy hall with ominous flickering lights is the home of Lurie and June Walker. Come on in when you get here. Walk across the creaky kitchen floor and take a seat in one of the old wooden chairs along the walls. Don't mind the noises. Don't worry about those sharp flashes of light. You're safe. You're in a "good" neighborhood.

The Walkers, a Black couple who are the protagonists of Kirsten Greenidge's Feeding Beatrice: A Gothic Tale, have purchased a home in the suburbs of Boston hoping to put their best foot forward for their adoption agency. June Walker (Lorene Chesley), a former-dance-teacher-turned-bank-officer, is desperate for a baby, and nothing else they've tried has worked. Lurie Walker (Nathan James), a news junkie whose career is closely tied to his hobby, is mostly happy to keep June happy. However, he is clearly worried about their investment in this home, not only because of how much money it will cost for the kinds of repairs the place needs, but also because there's a very peculiar 16-year-old white girl named Beatrice (Allison Winn) who keeps showing up. And staying. Eating. And demanding more and more of the Walkers.

BWW Review: FEEDING BEATRICE World Premiere at The Rep Is a Gothic Horror Version of The American Dream
Photo by Jon Gitchoff

June, blinded by her desperation to fit into their new neighborhood and impress the adoption agency, is bothered by Beatrice's usage of racial slurs that are offensive and outdated, but doesn't seem to recognize the other extreme eccentricities of Beatrice. For one, Beatrice is obsessed with Shirley Temple. She also slurps down June's homemade jam by the jar. And she just looks and acts a little "off." June's impulsiveness in befriending Beatrice is a bit confusing since June comes off otherwise as a bright intellectual. Alas, June's deep maternal longing is plausible, and a seemingly lovely relationship begins to develop between the two. June keeps Beatrice fed, teaches her to dance the tango (a dance of power, lest one forget), and allows her to bathe upstairs and even stay overnight since Beatrice refuses to go home to her parents.

BWW Review: FEEDING BEATRICE World Premiere at The Rep Is a Gothic Horror Version of The American Dream
Photo by Jon Gitchoff

Meanwhile, Lurie's brother LeRoy (Ronald Emile), a plumber who feels out-of-place in the 'burbs, is happy to help with some of the repairs, but his services come with astute warnings about the dangers of Lurie trying too hard to fit in with these "good" new neighbors of his. Lurie is at times literally visibly torn between the sacrifices he and June have made and the life that lies ahead in this new neighborhood where everything seems just out of reach.

Things get stranger and creepier until the couple finally figures out that Beatrice is a ghost haunting them, and that they must figure out a way to take back the house and rid themselves of her for good. But that's not going to be so easy. As LeRoy warns, "You can't bury the past."

BWW Review: FEEDING BEATRICE World Premiere at The Rep Is a Gothic Horror Version of The American Dream
Photo by Jon Gitchoff

This play is a thought-provoking, sobering, but often times laugh-out-loud gothic tale, smartly crafted to work on many complex intellectual levels. Its haunting metaphors explore racism, classism, and the cleanliness/dirtiness of the American Dream. It is a bit heavy on exposition, particularly in the beginning, and that makes it difficult to settle in at first with the characters, but once you're in the house with them, I assure you, there's no escaping. {{{Mwa ha ha ha haaa.}}}

The cast is a strong foursome, each bringing a solid performance. Their timing is commendable too, delivering quick banter and meaningful exchanges while moving swiftly through scene transitions to increase momentum in this thriller.

BWW Review: FEEDING BEATRICE World Premiere at The Rep Is a Gothic Horror Version of The American Dream
Photo by Jon Gitchoff

Lawrence E. Moten III's scenic design is simply outstanding, with every rich detail tended to. The props as well get an A+, as do David Kelepha Samba's spooky sound design and Jason Lynch's ghostly lighting. The theatre does get a little warm with all the lights in that small space, so be sure to dress in layers.

Feeding Beatrice: A Gothic Tale, by Kirsten Greenidge, directed by Daniel Bryant, plays through November 17 at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis with performances held in the Emerson Studio Theatre of Webster University's Loretto Hilton Center. This world premiere is the opener to the Steve Woolf Studio Series, which ensures the continuation of cutting-edge work in the Emerson Studio Theatre.

For more information and tickets, http://www.repstl.org/events/detail/feeding-beatrice.



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