The lights flicker, there are gasps from the bunker guests, and eerie music—such as the guests singing Ring Around The Rosie, a song many speculate has origins in the Black Plague—plays. And with this, shivers go down our spines.
This production is loosely modeled on Edgar Allen Poe’s famous work, The Masque of the Red Death, while also combining the fear of 2020’s pandemic and the inadequacy of our country's leadership. This is especially personified by The Prince, who delivers his comical, impersonated Trump-esque lines, “We’re winning” and “fake news,” among many, many others.
As is the way of the world, there is the voice of the people up against the voices of the wealthy powers that be—and in this production, that idea is not lost on us. What unfolds is not a story on the pandemic as we know it today. Rather, it is a late-stage plague that has effectively caused people to have to share public rations of food, while the wealthy and their friends bunker “at an undisclosed location.”
Black Button Eyes Productions Overcomes Video Limitations By Sharing Script
Given the limitations of the socially-distanced cast filming their snippets from home, many scenes are cut short. This leaves us to rely heavily on the script, which has been written out in between all 13 YouTube video installments—each no more than 6 minutes long, and strung together on the play’s homepage. In this writer’s opinion, the script and stage notes add flair to the show where acting could not. For example, a particularly memorable moment is when Stanely, a man safe from the virus through nepotism, steps on to the stage as the script reads, “He is nervous and useless.”
To the show makers’ credit, following each snippet of the play, in between the video and script, was information for the casts’ various Patreon pages or Instagram accounts, encouraging viewers to donate or support these artists during such a difficult time. Making the theatre community, in the viewer’s opinion, feel a little more alive and well.
Burlesque, puppetry, fire dancing, political jabs, and a lot more are wrapped up into this staggered production meant to comment directly on how the administration of current times is responding—”You idiots did nothing,” as one critical voice said.
This production is best suited for those who also criticize America’s political pawns, are fond of bizarre skits, and can appreciate the marriage of classic text with a new twist.
Kat Evans, Sydney Genco, Scott Gryder, Nick Sula, Adrian Hadlock, Dawn Xiana Moon, Shane Roberie, Mikaela Sullivan, and Cyn S Tease Ya.
Ed Rutherford (writer), Jonathan Wagner (music), Jonathon Lynch (music), and Walter Bezt (illustrations)
About the Author:
Margaret Smith is a writer, editor, and critic achieving her B.A. from Columbia College Chicago. Having migrated from small-town Illinois, she now dwells in Chicago with a curious eye for art and a penchant for commentary. When not putting pen to paper, you might catch her about the city sipping coffee and filling in crossword puzzles.