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Blood Rose Rising - our review - Boston Events INSIDER

Blood Rose Rising - our review at Boston Events INSIDER Johnny's Summary
I love serialized shows like 24 and The Walking Dead because the story doesn't end. Now a local troupe is applying the concept to a Murder Mystery Theatre! Each show advances the story, you can order dinner, and you watch the performances you don't catch live online. GO SUPPORT RISK-TAKING THEATRE! Click for our review! - . Davis Square Theater, 255 Elm St., Somerville, MA . Johnny Monsarrat recently judged a panel at Mass Innovation Nights
Our Review

Blood Rose Rising Gets Blood Pumping - 4.5 out of 5 stars

Review by Johnny Plankton

(Blood Rose Rising, an ongoing theatrical serial; At the Davis Square Theatre thru April 7th)

Looking for a new type of theatre experience? How about one that includes a little gore, an ethereally beautiful ghost, a nice alt-rock band, some magic, killer special effects, a talented cast, a oft-told but effectively spun spooky story with a twist, some comic touches AND drinking at your seats? The newly opened Davis Square Theatre, just one appendage of the complex that includes Saloon and Foundry on Elm, is host to such an experience with "Blood Rose Rising" a ghostly love story with a little politics, religion and a look at the academic life thrown in. It's also a serial, and this is the pilot episode, entitled "Immaterial Girl", of what the producers say will be an ongoing series. If the opener is any indication, it should have audiences coming back.

Robert Blackwood (Andrew Cromartie), a likeable but underachieving professor at a Boston-area community college, learns of his hated father's death from dad's lawyer, and soon thereafter inherits his childhood house. Robert had been estranged from his father for over a decade since his mother's mysterious death, and according to local news reports (cleverly relayed via the multi-use large screen TV in the corner of the theater), his brilliant father had become increasingly "eccentric" (read mad) as he got on in years. Robert's girlfriend, Olivia Barlow (Dakota Shepherd), is a beautiful attorney planning a run for Congress, with the aid of her powerful father - who is a close personal advisor to the Governor of Mass. In Robert's hour of need, he convinces her that she needs to attend to her own busy schedule and to meet with her mentor, Parker Snode (Calvin Braxton), who aims to teach her the political ropes while harboring romantic designs on his protege.

Robert goes to the house alone to see what state the property is in and begins poking around his dad's writings and various surgical instruments, in a scene reminiscent of the H. P. Lovecraft and cult classic horror film Re-Animator (or Young Frankenstein, minus the camp) and pretty much sneers at his dad's folly. An encounter with a mentally disturbed homeless man living in the abandoned house that ends badly gives him a taste of dad's insanity, but more importantly serves to introduce Robert to his new crush, Rose (Poornima Kirby) - the beautiful ghost with a blood Jones.

Co-written by creator Ben Evett, the ART veteran and founder and former artistic director of Actors' Shakespeare Project, and lauded local playwright/actor Steve Barkhimer, the first installment focuses a good deal on giving the audience an insight into the psychological makeup of Robert. There are scenes of him exposing his insecurities while teaching his students, stoner Bud (Casey Preston) and sexy/angry believer Sharon (Aimee Rose Ranger); a dream (?) sequence featuring Olivia unloading on him as she performs a magic trick with the help of said students; and various incarnations of internal dialogues with Robert alone. It almost begs the question: What the hell is Olivia doing with him? In addition to being the object of her mentor's desires, she is also being shamelessly pursued by corporate sleazebag Wilson Darning, who can't understand how Robert hasn't married her yet.

The cast is solid across the board, with some of the actors performing double duty, including Preston's sniveling and comical turn as a spineless preppie drug dealer and Braxton as the unfortunate homeless man. Robert St. Laurence rounds out the cast as Elliot Fogg, and is dead-on repulsive as the brains behind the preppie drug-dealing duo. But Rose the Ghost steals the show, even with sparse lines to deliver. Cleverly lit to appear spectral (not unlike Princess Leia's hologram in the first Star Wars) Kirby does her best work in mime, desperately seeking something (we don't know what) and looking like a frantic junkie who can't find her dope. "There's not enough," she says before fading out each time, referring to the blood that can make her whole.

It's nice to see the Davis Square Theater space back in action, with it its three full viewing sides, and Evett makes great use of the 164-seat venue, putting actors in the audience off stage to deliver their lines to create an almost participatory experience. The band Alchemilla opens, closes and plays throughout the show (including intermission and after) and has a nice stripped down (no bass or drums) rock sound, with vocalist Kathleen Burke accompanied by an electric and acoustic guitar. They include the appropriately title "Chasing Ghosts" among their selections.

Theatergoers are encouraged to stay after the show to listen to the band, and order food and drinks at Saloon, the new watering hole that shares the space with the basement theater (which used to be Jimmy Tingle's Off-Broadway Theater and before that, Boston Baked Theater) and provides drinks during the show. Saloon appears to be a local hotspot already, with 30 or more patrons in line outside waiting to get in as we left.

Theatergoers are encouraged to stay after the show to listen to the band, and order food and drinks at Saloon, the new watering hole that shares the space with the basement theater (which used to be Jimmy Tingle's Off-Broadway Theater and before that, Boston Baked Theater) and provides drinks during the show. Saloon appears to be a local hotspot already, with 30 or more patrons in line outside waiting to get in as we left.

"We think this is a show that isn't necessarily for (the usual) theater goers, so we're trying really hard to reach (a wider audience), said Evett after the performance. "Getting the word out is the challenge." Overall, a fun and interesting night of theater and music, and we can't wait for the next installment.

Full Description

Blood Rose Rising is a radically new idea in theatrical entertainment. It’s a live-action, supernatural series. Each episode is a complete entertainment experience in itself, but with developing characters and a story arc that progresses from episode to episode toward a thrilling seasonal climax. It’s a full evening out – the show takes place in a dynamic night club environment, with live music, magic, food, drink, and a vibrant party atmosphere.

Blood Rose Rising will open with its Pilot Episode, “Immaterial Girl” at the new Davis Square Theater, on February 17th, 2012, in partnership with Saloon, the vibrant new bar right in the same building, which will be providing the food and beverage service. With cast members, Calvin Braxton, Andrew Cromartie, Poornima Kirby, Casey Preston, Aimee Rose Ranger, Dakota Shepard, Victor Shopov and Robert St. Laurence, and live music by local bands including indy sensation Alchemilla, it promises many evenings of vivid, high-powered entertainment. New episodes will follow every month or so, so you can keep coming back for more!

Created by Ben Evett, and co-written by local Boston phenom Steve Barkhimer, the show is a romantic ghost story that explores our longing for connection with life and control over death, and the mysterious triangle that exists between spirituality, science and illusion. But it’s not all darkness and metaphysics. It’s an adventure story – wild, witty, shocking, and just plain fun.


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