Review: Lizzie

“Curses! My stocking ripped!”

“Curses! My stocking ripped!”

Photo courtesy of the Actor’s Playpen

8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; $16-$26. The Actor’s Playpen, Black Box Theater West Sacramento Community Center; (916) 705-9116; Through February 25.
Rated 5.0

In this age of tabloid journalism and grisly crime dramas, the story of a daughter hacking her parents to death may seem commonplace. Back in 1892, however, it was unheard of, and so the murder of Lizzie Borden’s parents—and her subsequent arrest and acquittal after only 90 minutes of courtroom deliberation—was considered the crime of the century.

Lizzie is the imagined story of what really happened, and is the first production by the Actor’s Playpen, a new theater company housed near West Sacramento’s growing Bridge District.

Staged as a musical, this is a rocking, dynamic and occasionally sensitive look at how a woman could commit such a vicious crime. We get a glimpse of the history of Lizzie and her sister Emma and the conditions in their home, including hints of sexual abuse, as well as the machinations of an unseen stepmother who schemes to deprive her stepdaughters of their inheritance.

Thanks to four skilled actresses, the audience is able to make an emotional connection to the women. Jennifer Morrison gives a powerful performance as Lizzie, a woman who yearns for love but has found only torment and trauma.

Joelle Robertson is Lizzie’s sister Emma, a strong character and very protective of her younger sibling. The two women have some beautiful moments of ballad-like duets.

Sara Logan is Bridgette, the Irish maid who has her own agenda, though she supports Lizzie up to a point. She becomes downright scary after the tragedy.

Chelsea Fitzsimmons is Lizzie’s friend Alice, whose love for Lizzie is palpable, and with whom Lizzie has a couple of tender romantic moments. Her personality change following the murder is startling.

The show also features striking Gothic costumes, designed by Meg Masterson.