Murder Americana: The People Vs. Lizzie Borden | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Murder Americana: The People Vs. Lizzie Borden 

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Murder Americana: The People Vs. Lizzie Borden, Circle Theatre. This world premiere of Harry McEwan's exploration of the Lizzie Borden case starts out well, with confident acting, focused direction, illuminating scholarship, and a wonderfully troubling theme: the difficulty of getting at the truth of a case, even a well-publicized murder of the sort that turned Borden into a household name and the subject of a popular children's rhyme.

But as McEwan's sometimes overwritten play trundles to its conclusion, his eagerness to solve the murders of Borden's father and stepmother causes him to make some wild speculations, including that Lizzie had a hitherto unknown bastard half brother. All of these tie up the loose ends of the story a little too neatly and make the play much more melodramatic.

Ty Perry's tight, focused direction and ensemble of energetic, committed actors almost overcome McEwan's graceless ending. Ann Followill is particularly winning as Borden: she does a great job of finding the woman behind the spiteful gossip and unflattering photographs, many of which make Borden look criminally insane.


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