Centerstage: Theatre Review - Burn the Black Dog
"Burn the Black Dog" is the latest brainchild of Wayward Productions, a company specializing in creating theatre in interesting spaces. In this production, audiences are taken on an immersive experience through St. Cyprian's School for Girls and can choose to either follow the students or faculty on two separate tracks that occasionally cross paths. While similar to Punchdrunk's concept for "Sleep No More," this production does incorporate text and characters that often interact interact with audience members. The story is built upon Arthur Miller's"The Crucible," with a dash of the 1996 film "The Craft." And as a graduate of an all-girl Catholic school myself, I can say that the student track is spot on.
Yet this play isn't so much about the Wiccan faith as it is about teenage girls desperate for power over their circumstances, using manipulation and straight up bullying to get their way. The four girls who instigate most of the conflict are the stars here. Playwright and performer Natalie DiCristofano is joined by Jill Oliver, Ashley Yates, and Lauren Baker in strong performances as seniors who rule the school; however, I was also greatly impressed with Marissa Panzeri as A.J. Putnam. Her performance was so strong in one scene that I actually forgot that I was watching a play, and it took everything I had not to stop the bullying she endures. And that's a feeling that follows you throughout the student track.
As this is an immersive experience, audience members feel more complicit in the actions of these students, as we are all powerless to stop them. The faculty track lacks this edge, as the faculty members themselves are victims of the actions of their students. Of all the faculty, I must say that Megan See blew me away on both tracks. Her performance as Sarah Goodrich was pure perfection. Overall, this show is brilliant. The student track hit nerves that I had forgotten I even had, and the faculty track made me empathize with just how helpless adults are in similar situations. I highly recommend this experience, but I would suggest that if you commit to both tracks, to see the faculty version first then let the students bring it home for the win.