A serial killer is stalking the streets of Texas. He’s already kidnapped and killed eleven women. And in the first 5 minutes of Catch the Butcher, Bill (Jonathan Walker) kidnaps Nancy (Lauren Luna Vélez) to make his kill list an even dozen. But the tables have turned: Nancy wanted to be kidnapped. Thus starts a hilarious dark comedy full of twists and turns.
The script itself, written by Adam Seidel, is a seriously dark comedy that could easily devolve into something plodding and dark or silly and nonsensical. The show delightfully straddles that line. Laughs come easily, particularly after the story gets rolling. One of the main themes seems to be a play on Stockholm Syndrome, and in this case, that concept gets flipped on its head with Nancy the “victim” winning her captor over and eventually putting herself completely in charge.
Most of the show is a two hander between Walker and Vélez. They have an easy chemistry with one another, elevating the slightly stilted beginnings between Bill and Nancy that develops into an almost childish romance that quickly shifts to a battle of wills. It’s a wide range of relationships to be sure, but Walker and Vélez combat each shift with ease and a wholeheartedness that just makes you want to grin. Credit should also be given to director Valentina Fratti for guiding and navigating the scenes in interesting ways. Some of the twists I didn’t see coming, including one surprising turn involving a fork, and it’s a combination of both the actors and the director that keep things interesting and non-predictable.
A fun interlude to the isolation of Bill and Nancy is the uproariously colorful Joanne (Angelina Fiordellisi). Joanne bursts in the last 3rd of the play and brings a ton of fun and comedy and joy to the proceedings, keeping things from becoming seriously grim and unwittingly pushing Nancy to turn the tables on Bill and move things towards the finale. Fiordellisi has an amazing amount of punch and vigor that was a refreshing change onstage. Both Nancy and Bill have an undercurrent of calm running through them, and Joanne disrupts that in the best way.
The design elements and theater itself bring a great intimacy and immediacy to the action going onstage. The theater is small and intimate, so you can see every detail. The scenic design by Lauren Helpern places you right in the spaces with cool and dark detail, aided by the mix of shadows and light created by lighting designer Graham Kindred. Costume designer Brooke Cohen helps navigate the different scene tones with her full color palette of costumes.If you’re looking to laugh at some great dark humor, look no further than Catch the Butcher. It will be playing at the Cherry Lane Theatre at 38 Commerce Street through October 30th.
Review By: Chrissy Cody
Photos By: Carol Rosegg