2016 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: Blood Wild (Rabbit in a Hat Productions)

Blood Wild

Blood Wild is produced by Rabbit in a Hat Productions from Montreal, which kind of sucks for their opening night at the Next Stage Theatre Festival. If you’re a Toronto company your family and friends come to your opening so you have a nice sized audience. The audience tonight was sparse which was a shame because it’s a very funny show. I wasn’t the only person snickering at the death scene.

Blood Wild is a story of the old west, reminiscent of old TV westerns and movies – with swearing. Before the show there was the usual please turn off your phones request and a warning that there were gunshots in the play and that it contained mature language “or, as the playwright says, immature language”. That’s a great warning.

The gang has pulled off a train robbery and are holed up in a saloon. Willie (Alex Weiner) and Mitchell (Eric Davis) wake up to find that their leader, and the money, have disappeared. Where has he gone? Where is the money? Does Mitchell know? Where is Cassandra (Julia Borsellino), the saloon owner’s sister? Is Iris (Patricia Summersett), the saloon keeper going to strap on her gun and go find her sister? Has the crooked Sheriff Peach (David Baby) betrayed them?

It’s a mystery, a drama, and a comedy.

Playwright Paul Van Dyck has populated his play with characters we recognize right away. They are are lovingly drawn and fleshed out. No one is just good or bad. It would be easy for the characters to be caricatures. That they aren’t is a tribute to Van Dyke’s writing and the strong performances from the cast.

As well as writing the play, Van Dyke is the co-director and is in the cast. A triple threat.

He’s wonderful as Slim. His portrayal of the slow-witted, shambling man, who helps in the saloon, cleaning, pouring drinks, and regaling people with his dream of owning a sow, is never unkind and often funny.

That’s not to say that the other performers were anything less than terrific. They were all great. I was particularly impressed at how much emotion Borsellino – as Cassandra – managed to convey without saying a word.

I really enjoyed the way the characters interacted. At times they were quite predictable but then they would surprise me with something unexpected. At the beginning of the play Slim comes in singing The Streets of Laredo and wakes Willie who has passed out behind the bar. Willie yells at him to shut up. Slim tries but you can tell that he just has to finish the song. He whisper sings it and then gets louder again. Willie jumps out looking as if he’s going to hit Slim but instead he joins him in finishing the song. It was lovely.

Peter Vatsis has designed a lovely set complete with saloon doors, a piano, a bar and a table. It looked very old west and helped set the old west scene.

Melanie Michaud’s costumes added to the atmosphere as well. The men’s clothes clothes looked authentic, worn and a bit scruffy. Even their shoes seemed to carry the dust of the west. Iris’s dress and corset was gorgeous.

The action moved along quickly. All the questions were answered at the end. I really enjoyed Blood Wild. Go see it, you’ll laugh. There’s swearing.


Photo by Tanja Tiziana