Review by: Katie Stoneman
A play by Scottish playwright, Anthony Neilson that Toronto-based company, HUMANZOO certainly did justice. No pun intended.
The show centers around the trials and defense of serial killer Peter Kürten, a.k.a. “The Vampire of Düsseldorf.” Kürten, played by Justin Goodhand, is on trial for several counts of murder and sexual assault among others. Throughout the play he shares very intimate, very scarring stories of his past and tormented upbringing with his defense lawyer, Justus Wehner.
Justus Wehner’s character, played by Edward Charette, dances between morality and madness throughout the play, Kürten’s character being the gatekeeper of the madness in the room. Wehner exhibits obvious discuss, but much with gory, taboo subjects is obviously intrigued, maybe fascinated by Kürten.
Wehner also becomes fascinated (infatuated?) with Kürten’s distraught wife, Frau Kürten. Frau, a former prostitue played by Shanda Bezic, shows a different side to Peter Kürten’s adult life. “He needs me,” she says over and over, a woman so desperate not to be alone; a woman who has, in the past, murdered a man who promised to abandon her.
The acting in this play is spot on, to say the least. These young actors have honed their craft, they look the part, they sound the part and they play the part, damn it. The ladies running the box office outside of the room and down the hall can probably feel the tension between the two men in the show.
That tension, between all of the characters, is what drives the play. And with different elements, crafty lighting, creative and continuous transitions, and prop movement, the tension never dulls. At a mid-point in the show a fun “song & dance” erupts to break up the emotions. The music is perfect for the settings, and the cute choreography is in perfect juxtaposition with the actual story of violence and seduction.
“What do you think about in the dark?” Kürten creepily asks Wehner. A loaded question for some people.
This play certainly takes you to some dark, dark places.