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Review: OUR BLACK DEATH by Taffety Punk Battles for Love at the End of the World

Review: OUR BLACK DEATH by Taffety Punk Battles for Love at the End of the World

Taffety Punk Theatre Company returns to the stage in full force with their production of Our Black Death: Plagues, Turnips, and Other Romantic Gestures, a new play written by Lindsay Carpenter and directed by Marcus Kyd that is all at once hilarious, shocking, and bittersweet in its exploration of love during a plague.

As the Bubonic Plague destroys the world around them, two village women, Bit and Frol (Dawn Thomas Reidy and Esther Williamson), seize the opportunity to finally be together. After years of stolen moments away from their husbands and society's harsh heteropatriarchal constraints, the two are determined to make the most of the time they have left before they, too, catch their death. Frol, cynical and strong-willed, clings to the freedom from consequence she discovers in the certainty of death. "There's some relief in that," she says early on, in a moment of joyful nihilism. "Whatever we choose, we die." Her partner Bit, on the other hand, a deeply caring and optimistic character, is certain that the love they share is pure enough to make them immune to the Black Death entirely.

Seeing a world of opportunity in their future as the last two women on earth, Bit decides to pursue her dream of exploring the nearby castle she's admired her entire life. Here, meets a self-quarantining Nobleman (Connor Padilla). As the two strike up a surprising friendship, Frol is swept up in the magical antics of her neighbor, a Lovesick Lady (Tonya Beckman) who decides to dabble in spellcasting in an effort to secure the devotion of a local Man (Gregory Scott Stuart).

Review: OUR BLACK DEATH by Taffety Punk Battles for Love at the End of the World
Tonya Beckman (left) and Esther Williamson as Lovesick Lady and Frol.
Photo by Chris Grady.

In the intimacy provided by Capitol Hill Art Workshop's stage, audience members are easily absorbed by the drama that unfolds as each character desperately pursues and reexamines their heart's desires under the threat of imminent death. Taffety Punk Theatre Company's performances are spectacular, each actor giving Carpenter's richly imagined characters their full due. The actors' skill and the quality of the script, accented by Garland of Hours' music and impressively detailed costumes by Jen Gillette, make an emotionally turbulent story about love, fear, manipulation, and death into a wildly entertaining production. Our Black Death is fast-paced, hilarious, and feels wholly unique (certainly an impressive feat for a story set during a pandemic).

Review: OUR BLACK DEATH by Taffety Punk Battles for Love at the End of the World
Connor Padilla as the Nobleman.
Photo by Chris Grady.

This is an opportunity to experience some spectacularly clever storytelling. Our Black Death's rich and layered plot constantly evolves as the reality set before each character crumbles alongside society itself. As even the best-laid plans unravel, the story becomes something wholly unexpected. What begins as a whimsical and macabre love story develops into an entirely different tale by the end, leaving audience members questioning what true love and freedom really look like.

Our Black Death is onstage at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop through Saturday, October 8th. The run time is approximately 90 minutes without an intermission. Find more details and purchase tickets here.

Main Photo Credit: Dawn Thomas Reidy (left) and Esther Williamson as Bit and Frol. Photo by Chris Grady.


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