BY GEORGINA CASAZZA
STONY POINT – Lizzie Borden is back, and this time defending her honor, in the world premiere of “Fall River,” showing here in Rockland County at Stony Point’s Penguin Repertory Theatre. Written by Frederick Stroppel and directed by Penguin Rep’s very own founder, Joe Brancato, the two-man show tells the first-hand story of Lizzie Borden, who was accused of murdering her parents over 125 years ago. “Fall River” is an “imaginative retelling of Lizzie’s life, before and after the murders, ” said Andrew Horn, the show’s executive director.
Set on a simple stage and utilizing the movement of few props and costume pieces Lizzie, played by Sofia Jean Gomez, talks straight to the audience about what she recollects of those days before and after the famous murders. Gomez, who brings a sincerity and likability to Lizzie, is left with a daunting task of being onstage the entire 75 minutes of the show with no intermission.
Performing what can only be likened to a full show soliloquy, she does not miss the chance to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand. Some of Gomez’s most notable credits include Signature Theatre Company’s “Angel’s in America: Part 1&2,” and New World Stage’s “Would You Still,” directed by Kathleen Turner.
Although told solely from Borden’s point of view, you are introduced to many important character’s in Lizzie’s story through one main actor – Oliver Wadsworth. Wadsworth plays every major role in Borden’s tale, leaving him wisely credited as the character “Everyone else.” The addition of a shawl makes him becoming Emma Borden, Lizzie’s caring older sister. A thick, Irish brogue turns him into the family’s hardworking servant, Bridget Sullivan. By slouching his shoulders and stamping his foot hard on the stage floor Wadsworth brings to life Mr. Borden, one of the story’s notable victims. With humor and the ability to transform characters before the audience’s eye, Wadsworth is able to break up some of the monotony of Borden’s long rants. Some of Wadsworth most recent credits include the National Tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Public Theatre’s Well.
Fall River toys with how Lizzie Borden saw her innocence in the murders of her father and stepmother, and educates the audience on many oppositional theories of who the murderer could have been, but maybe most importantly, who the murderer wasn’t. The limited engagement of Fall River will run through Sunday, November 5th at the small, once abandoned hay barn, Penguin Rep Theatre – 7 Cricketown Road, Stony Point. Visit http://www.penguinrep.org/ for tickets and more information. Other crew: Brian Prather, scenic design; Lux Haac, costume design; Reza Bejhat, lighting design; William Heal, sound design; Buffy Cardoza; properties; Bobbie Zlotnik, wig design; Stephanie Klapper, casting; Stephanie Clark, stage manager.