What is it that makes us find Victorian murders so juicy, fascinating and macabre? And also so irresistibly funny? The Catamounts, a relatively new company, has resurrected yet another Victorian murder story with The Three Faces of Doctor Crippen; judging by this lively, cheeky production, the company will be a very welcome addition to the scene.
With The Three Faces of Doctor Crippen, Emily Schwartz has written a comic, stylized little piece about Dr. Harvey Crippen, an American homeopath who settled in London with his showgirl bride, Cora -- a remarkably irritating and untalented woman. In England he promptly fell in love with his demure secretary, Ethel. When she told him she was pregnant, he decided to poison Cora and cut her into little bits in the bathtub. Then he fled for Canada with Ethel, who was disguised as a boy.
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Accounts of the case dutifully tell us that Crippen was the first suspect to be apprehended with the help of wireless communication, so that's his claim to fame. That, and some titillatingly gory details.
In Schwartz's version, though, there are three Crippens, all mustachio'd. It's Private Crippen, rather sweetly played by Michael Bouchard in this Catamounts production, whose love for Ethel is pure. Well, pure-ish. Jason Maxwell's Public Crippen tries to maintain a face of propriety and innocence, while Jeremy Make's Fantasy Crippen represents the ghoulish and unrestrained id and has the most fun. There's also a strange chorus of three women, given to chanting, hopping, sidling across the stage and assuming various disguises.
It's Music Hall meets Grand Guignol meets experimental theater meets the musical Chicago; read the full review in next week's Westword.
The Three Faces of Doctor Crippen will be presented Fridays and Saturdays through February 18 at Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan Street. For more information, call 720-468-0487 or go to http://thecatamounts.wordpress.com.