A feuding family’s ideologies set the stage for a national tragedy.
spit&vigor’s production of
by Casey Wimpee
the historic home of Edwin Booth
"Irresistibly dramatic. Legitimately upsetting" -
The New York Times
Photos by Giancarlo Osaben
Casey Wimpee’s wild and gripping drama, THE BRUTES, takes you backstage of an historic performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar featuring the renowned theatrical Booth family - brothers Edwin, Junius Jr. and John Wilkes Booth. This was the first and only time that the three brothers shared a stage together. The backstage drama becomes the focus of this portrait of their tempestuous relationship fraught with political conflict ending in an American tragedy.
From the critically-acclaimed and award-winning company members that brought IN VESTMENTS to The Center at West Park and BLOOD COUNTESS off-broadway to The Players Theatre, THE BRUTES is a deeply intimate portrait of a family divided. The piece is staged in the Round with minimal set pieces serving as a theatre and a dinner table. Civil strife, family devolution, and a country sharply divided - today or 150 years ago, the parable of this drama remains strong.
THE REVIEWS ARE IN:
"It's an irresistibly dramatic scenario: siblings who split between the Union and Confederate sides in a violently divided country, enacting a tragedy about political conspiracy as a real-life plot bursts into flames around them."
-Laura Collins Hughes, The New York Times
"Playwright Casey Wimpee is clearly a history buff, and the history in the play is spot on. The layers he creates in terms of the action that’s happening in rehearsal versus what’s happening outside in a divided nation are nuanced and interesting. Although the focus is on this intimate moment of a family’s history, he definitely also channels the excitement that surrounds their larger story."
"One scene that is particularly satisfying is a battle of words between Junius Jr. and John Wilkes in which they toss intricate passages of Shakespeare back and forth to each other. It’s such a smart way to show a theatrical past that ties them together in ways they can’t avoid. The play also contains moments of dinner table talk that shift to more uncomfortable conversations of politics, and all the while a band of “brutes” hover just outside the family scenes representing the dark world of the closing days of the Civil War unfolding just outside the shiny lights of the Booth family drama."
"Performed in the round, Sara Fellini’s direction is fueled by constant movement, helping to create a whirlwind of excitement that then offsets the quiet moments in a lovely way."
"Fellini also acts as costume and props designer, along with assistant Xandra Leigh Parker, and together they’ve created beautiful, (and hipster but in a good way), costumes and props that are of a particular time but also help create the overarching vibe of the play."
"Everyone involved in The Brutes definitely commits to that vibe, in particular, the cast, which is solid throughout. It’s difficult to call any one actor out as they really do create the story together, but in particular, Belvo is wonderful as Edwin, wrapped up in his continually growing stardom but still tortured by memories of his father, who he watched drink himself to death. And Keeney as John Wilkes beautifully captures the rising anger of a young man out of place with his family and set on a course that ultimately will end in destruction."
"At 75 minutes, The Brutes is a whirlwind, action-packed firecracker, but at its heart, it’s the complicated relationship between siblings perched on the edge of an impending tragedy but not yet in it that really makes this play a joy to watch."
Victoria Teague, New York Theatre Review
"Wimpee has all the captivating pieces in play: Edwin (Adam Belvo, commanding) is the world-famous Booth, caught up in his own stardom and assured in his belief that he is the Booth family; John Wilkes (Colt W. Keeney, in a tinderbox of a performance) is the rebel Booth, already smuggling drugs to the Confederate Army and dripping with contempt towards the Yankee cause; and, most compellingly, Asia (Sara Fellini, delightfully engaged and engaging) is the behind-the-scenes Booth, a jack-of-all-trades thespian who stands in the shadow of both her family and her theater manager husband John Sleeper Clarke (Perri Yaniv).
"Fellini, doubling as director, produces a lively variety of stage pictures in the small in-the-round space. There’s often a sort of centrifugal force to the rehearsal scenes as Asia and her husband circle the actors, giving notes and calling out stage directions while the brothers recite. The lurking presence of four “Brutes” (Xandra Leigh Parker, Becca Musser, Morgan Zipf-Meister, and Harlan Short), bird-masked Confederates toting pistols and rifles, is successfully creepy when they’re in the background making eerie noises as John Wilkes schemes."
-Dan Rubins, Theatre Is Easy
On the experimental side, the fast-paced story weaves Shakespeare’s poetry and Wimpee’s verse seamlessly throughout the dialogue, blurring the line between the stories so you’re never quite sure whether what you just heard was part of the script, or the script-within-the-script.
As the titillating Asia—and as the show’s director, as well—Fellini especially brings this theatre-in-the-round to life, narrating the action on the stage—and the stage-within-the-stage—with a spirited, captivating performance.
"It is challenging enough for an actor to breathe credible life into the part of an average individual. Accomplishing this in a period piece with a little Shakespearean dialogue thrown into the mix is a lofty endeavor for any thespian. This cast rose to the occasion and produced a thoroughly believable period piece."
"Adam Belvo did an outstanding job of portraying Edwin Booth. He was unwavering in his discipline and highly effective in his delivery of the most successful of the brothers."
"Bravo to Sara Fellini for brilliantly wearing a plethora of hats for this production. She was director, costume and prop designer while effortlessly and expertly played the part of the whimsical and coquettish Asia Booth Clarke."
- Jen Bush, Drama Queens Reviews
"As soon as the first words were spoken we were believably and effortlessly transported back in time to a completely different era. The air seemed dustier and cool; the energy began lightly chaotic. The characters were funny and complicated from the very beginning. They almost literally grab your hand make you laugh some and then pull you through a story and the light chaos becomes loud and heavy, sprinkled with sword fights weighted with personal and political strife.
spit&vigor’s timing is great. They hand us the story of a family on the verge of divided, re-enacting the Shakespearean tale of a nation divided during a time when the nation is divided as a parable for our current … well, you get the point."
"The powerhouse cast of Adam Belvo, J.D. Martin, Sara Fellini, Colt W. Keeney, Morgan Zipf-Meister, Eamon Murphy, Becca Musser, Pete Oliver, Xandra Leigh Parker, Harlan Short, Nicholas Thomas, and Perri Yaniv acted as a greek chorus and brought the mood and the story to great heights."
The show, in its entirety, spoke strongly to our country’s current unrest and even the need to ignore it and dwell on the past. It dropped me off with a open, unanswered ending that is anxious and honest, reminding us that this isn’t the first time we have done this with our politics, our disagreements, our need to win.
You leave feeling rattled, contemplative and I find myself still learning and taking away from my experience. This isn’t a simple or easy show, this show is meaty and raw in its humanity and in it’s a timeliness.
This is a brave undertaking by Spit & Vigor and begs for a long dinner conversation over a stiff drink."
-Rebecca Benedict, Drama Queens Reviews
"Sara Fellini did an excellent job of portraying Mrs. Asia Booth Clarke, I found her to be remarkably believable. Her character was more of a rebel and Fellini’s liberal use of flirtatiousness made for welcome laughs. Her fine direction was also apparent all through the piece as well. She lifted the piece with artistry and intrigue."
"Casey Wimpee’s juxtaposition of the time periods of the death of two leaders was clever and – even today – quite uniquely done."
"Adam Belvo, as Edwin Booth gave us a great portrayal of a troubled man."
"Peter Oliver stood out as a narrator and [his] W. Hanley was the comedic relief in this show."
"These actors were amazing, professional and very powerful. I loved this show and would gratefully see it again. Directing, Costumes, lighting and especially acting as well as a true look at the mind of not only an actor but a murderer all add up to an interesting and intriguing time well spent in the theater."
- Amanda Kavaja, Arts Independent
"Casey Wimpee brings us a play that follows the once famous Booth family and their stormy relationship."
"The show is directed by Sara Fellini who also designed costumes/props. Very impressive."
"Sara Fellini’s casting was as stunning as her production scheme. The acting was very believable, and pulled the audience into the story."
"Over all it was a fun and interesting night of theater."
- Jade Fernandez, Outer-Stage
I very much enjoyed that special play in the perfect historical location.
It also gave inspiration to learn more about the lives of the Booth family.
I enjoyed the Brutes. The acting and story content were exceptional.
Helps a great deal if your knowledge of Shakespeare, Civil War and the Boothe Family are firmly planted in your brain.
Talented actors with witty script and well-produced play. Incredibly historical and intimate setting.
Excellent choice for folks interested in Civil War era conflict and fallout on war-torn families (& the talented Booth family's dynamics),
all within a Shakespeare play revival.
Photos by Giancarlo Osaben
Performed @ The Flamboyan as part of the July 2018 Planet Connections Festivity.
&& Performed at THE NEW OHIO THEATRE in November 2018
as part of their Hosting Program.
Cast & Crew
CASEY WIMPEE (Playwright) is a co-founder and the resident playwright of Ad Hoc Economy, née Aztec Economy, out of Brooklyn. His full length plays include LAVAMAN (Ice Factory 2009, Ohio Theatre, NYC), MARFA LIGHTS (Theatre Synesthesia, ATX), NATIONAL DIET OF JAPAN (P.S. 122, NYC), PONTIAC FIREBIRD VARIATIONS (Ice Factory 2011, Ohio Interrupted @ 3LD, NYC, Museum of Human Achievement @ Austin TX), COLOR TVS EN TIJUANA (Brooklyn Fireproof), KILL DEVILL HILLS (Collaboraction/Chicago), and BUTCHER HOLLER HERE WE COME, for which he won the 2018 BroadwayWorld Austin award for Best Writing of an Original Work. His play ARMS & THE OCTOPUS (Ohio/Galapagos, NY) was nominated for a New York Innovative Theatre award for Outstanding Original Short Script, and THE QUEEN IS DEAD, and AMPHIBIANS were Samuel French finalists, respectively. Other short plays produced nationally include: KANSAS CITY BOOK OF THE DEAD, TAKE OUT CHINESE, BRING ME THE HEAD OF JOHN FORD, ANTIGONE WITH THE WIND, and HOT DAMN. Originally from Texas, he currently lives in New Orleans. KIND OF BLOOD, MORE SONGS FROM THE NEOFASCISTS…, CONSTELLATION GOLF or THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY, ADVENTURES IN THE OK SKIN TRADE.
SARA FELLINI (Director / Costumes and Props / Asia Booth Clarke) is an award-winning playwright, director, actress, and skilled artisan. Her first play, HAZARD A LITTLE DEATH, was nominated for six awards at the 2014 NYC Planet Connections Theater Festivity including Best Production of a New Play and Best Lead Actress (Sara Fellini), winning Best New Script. She performed in the monodrama THE OTHER MOZART by Sylvia Milo at The Players Theatre in NYC and toured with the production (winning Cat5 magazine’s Best Theater Production of 2015, “the voice of a crystal bell, Fellini is captivating” –NOLA Defender), and created the role of Maeve Shourd in a site-specific production of IN VESTMENTS, a play of her own writing and winner of two NYIT awards, nominated for Outstanding New Full-Length Script, earning her theater company the Donn Russell grant, and acclaimed by the NYTimes as "wrenching and visually eloquent". She has appeared in another play of her own writing, THE EXECUTION OF MRS. COTTON (called "darkly humorous" and "deliciously ghoulish" by the NYTimes) as part of IRT Theater's 3B Residency. She played Mary Shelley in MARY’S LITTLE MONSTER by Thomas Kee at the mudlark public theatre in NOLA, The Davenport Theatre in NYC as part of the Davenport space grant, and intimately at Torn Page, the historic home of Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. She played baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi in her play NEC SPE / NEC METU at The Tank’s July 2017 DarkFest, at Theater Row as part of United Solo Festival, at the mudlark public theatre in NOLA, and by special invitation at The Glitter Box in Pittsburgh, PA. She played Asia Booth Clarke in THE BRUTES ("irresistibly dramatic, legitimately upsetting" - The NYTimes) by Casey Wimpee at The Flamboyan as part of The 10th Anniversary Planet Connections Festivity, nominated for 8 awards including Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Costume Design (both Sara Fellini). That production was invited by the Booth family to perform annually at The Players, Edwin Booth's historic home. During quarantine, she wrote and directed LUNA ECLIPSE, a one-shot livestream film, chosen as one of TIME OUT's Best Online Theater Productions, and she recently made her off-broadway performing and directing debut in THE WAKE OF DORCAS KELLY at The Players Theatre, a play she both wrote and directed, chosen as part of The Observer's Best Summer Theater of 2021. Her company spit&vigor has an ongoing off broadway Artistic Residency at The Players Theatre and as part of that residency she has gone on to write, direct, and perform in ECTOPLASM, (“tenacity ground into every red velvet seat - in other words, I love it” - Vulture), and she starred in BLOOD COUNTESS by Kelleen Conway Blanchard as the blood-hungry Elizabeth Bathory this past January.
ADAM BELVO (Producer / Fight Choreography / Edwin Booth) is a Brooklyn based actor and theater producer. Recent New York acting work includes Edwin Booth in THE BRUTES (2019 NYIT Outstanding Lead Actor Nominee), John Polidori in MARY's LITTLE MONSTER, Azra Todd in THE EXECUTION OF MRS. COTTON, Danny in DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, Father Nathan Shourd in the NYIT Award winning IN VESTMENTS, K.Bus and Muskie in Aztec Economy's BUTCHER HOLLER HERE WE COME (NYIT 2016 Outstanding Lead Actor nominee), Jack in OVER, Georges in HAZARD A LITTLE DEATH (Planet Connections Festival 2014: Best Actor Award Winner), Jaques in AS YOU LIKE IT, El Spectro in COLOR TVs IN TIJUANA, Ryszard in PONTIAC FIREBIRD VARIATIONS (Ice Factory 2011) and Vanya in UNCLE VANYA. Regionally, Adam has toured and performed as K.Bus in BUTCHER HOLLER HERE WE COME (Cincinnati Fringe Festival 2013, New Orleans Fringe Festival 2013, Out-of-the-Loop Festival 2014-Dallas, Revolutions 2016-Albuquerque, NM, Hollywood Fringe 2019, others), he has worked with MTB productions to produce and star in HELPLESS DOORKNOBS (New Orleans Fringe 2012) and as The Stranger in MY AIM IS TRUE (New Orleans Fringe 2011). He is Executive Producer of the Brooklyn based theater company spit&vigor (www.spitnvigor.com), and a collaborating member of Working Man's Clothes Productions and Aztec Economy. His work has been showcased at The 14th Street Y, The Tank, 3LD, The Ohio Theater, The New Ohio Theatre, The Davenport Theater, WestPark Presbyterian Church, The Abingdon Theater (Dorothy Strelsin and the June Havoc,) American Place Theater, Under St. Marks, and IRT Theater, among others.
NICHOLAS THOMAS (Producer / The Ghost of Junius Brutus Booth, Sr.) is an actor, writer and director from Melbourne, Australia. Recently seen in THE SHAKESPEARE RIOTS (Bay Street Theatre). Acting credits with spit&vigor include MARY’S LITTLE MONSTER, ECTOPLASM, THE WAKE OF DORCAS KELLY, HIT YOUR MARK, DIE BEAUTIFUL and made his off-broadway directing debut with BLOOD COUNTESS. He also writes, produces and directs original online content with his company Blunderbuss. He was a house team performer and teacher at the Peoples’ Improv Theatre (The PIT)
PERRI YANIV (John Wilkes Booth) is a born and bred New Yorker who loves working with spit&vigor: most recently as Father Anselm in Blood Countess at the Players Theatre, a variety of pirates in Marooned, Percy Byshe Shelley in Mary’s Little Monster at Torn Page, and previous incarnations of The Brutes at the Players Club and at the New Ohio (RIP). Other recent credits include The Sketchy Eastern European Show with Vasile Flutur at the Players Theatre, The Weak and the Strong at LaMaMa, Refuge with Blessed Unrest and Teatri Oda, The Plantation with Brave New World, and Barefoot Theatre Company's revival of Joe Pintauro's Raft of the Medusa. Film&TV: The Blacklist, BEDLAM: The Series, Delivery Hour, Winter Has No Sun, Purity, White Peacock. Huge thanks to the spit&vigor crew for all they do and to Paul Valle and his wonderful family for allowing us back in the building. @PerriYaniv, www.perribazyaniv.com
ETHAN LINDHOUT (W. Handsome Hanley) Since childhood, Ethan Lindhout has dreamed of doing it all. He experienced the world as a boundless classroom, forging a love for learning, adventure, and travel that he carries to this day. Recently, he spent four immersive months in Southeast Asia, studying the myriad ways people live their lives. Acting, for Ethan, is another way to travel - a journey into the intricacies of the human experience. Offstage, Ethan embraces the role of Ethan, a character driven by an insatiable curiosity and a fascination with why people do what they do. If he's in a room full of squares- he's usually the rhombus. You'll often find him animating films, making music from vintage TV commercials, or having deep conversations with strangers he'll never see again.
CAITLIN DULLAHAN-BATES (Mary, a Brute) is an actor, writer, and director from NYC. She holds a BFA in Acting from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied at the Atlantic Acting School and Stonestreet Studios. Caitlin was most recently featured in spit&vigor’s production of ECTOPLASM (The Players Theatre) and the New York Times recommended Fucked-Up Play Fest! (Caveat NYC). Last October, she wrapped production on Hell Wanted (Irving Pictures), in which she'll make her independent feature film debut. Her upcoming short film, of which is both the screenwriter and director, Hyacinth Girl, is currently in pre-production. Caitlin is thrilled to work with the spit&vigor company again and join the cast of The Brutes as Mary/Brute #1!
SILVANA CARRANZA (George, a Brute) is an AADA-graduate and Brooklyn-native actor, voice actor, and writer. Her most recent credits include What We Do In the Shadows Fan Film “The Newly Dead”, several Target toy commercials, and she’s provided her voice for Eric and Brandon on “The Bakery Boyz” cartoon. If Time Out Magazine saw her perform, they’d probably say something like “Oh geez! Silvana is such a great actor. Boy howdy, I could watch her act all day!” Silvana is happy to be working with Spit & Vigor, and invites everyone to follow her on Instagram at @thesilvanacarranza
MORGAN ZIPF-MEISTER (Herold, a Brute) is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Over the past decade she has found a home in the New York Indie Theater scene, and has worked with too many companies to list here, including having worked previously with spit&vigor in ‘The Brutes’ and ‘Hit Your Mark Die Beautiful’ at the New Ohio. She can be seen in New York's Favorite Monthly Soap Opera for the stage ‘It's Getting Tired Mildred’ as Charmaine Milton. Morgan is also a New York Innovative Theatre Award nominated Lighting Designer and Moth storyteller, who has been featured on The Moth Radio Hour. Her short film Push Up has played festivals both locally and internationally. For more information, please visit www.morganzipfmeister.com.
CHLOÉ BELL (Fontaine, a Brute) is originally from Louisville, KY and received her BFA from The University of MN / Guthrie Actor Training Program. She packed up a car on December 31st 2019, to move to New York, and what a ride it's been. She's so grateful to be working with spit&vigor again after being a part of their last production Blood Countess. Some of her other, recent work here in New York has been Macbeth with Hamlet Isn’t Dead, Captain Placeholder... with Greenhouse Ensemble, Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse Lautrec with Bated Breath Theatre Company and On Every Link a Heart Does Dangle: or Owed with The Lark Theatre. You can keep up to date with her and her work at chloebellactor.com. She'd like to extend a special thank you to her immensely supportive friends and boyfriend, Andrew. <3
spit&vigor (Producing Company)
Founded in 2015, spit&vigor is a non-profit theater company devoted to the development of new plays and spirited, innovative productions of existing work. Dedicated to makeshift, skin-of-your-teeth, ad hoc theater - bringing modern voices and perspectives to the wild, chaotic, irreverent, burlesque roots of theater. We have a special interest in gender issues, work and class issues, which we bring to all of our productions. We specialize in intimate theatrical productions in non-standard spaces.
spit&vigor's small roster of productions has been award winning and critically acclaimed, praised as “darkly humorous, deliciously ghoulish”, “wrenching and visually eloquent”, "irresistibly dramatic" and "legitimately upsetting" by the New York Times.
In collaboration with theater company Theatre4thePeople, spit&vigor was the recipient of the 2015 New York Innovative Theater Outstanding Premiere Production of a Play Award for their very first production in a historic chapel at The West Park Presbyterian Church, which included an Artist Support Grant from the Donn Russell Fund. spit&vigor has since gone on to earn The Players Theater off-broadway Artistic Residency, The Center at West Park’s Artist Residency, IRT's 3B Residency, The Davenport space grant, and The Times Center space grant.
We have performed by special invitation at The Glitterbox Theater in Pittsburgh and the 2017 NOLA InFringe Festival. In 2019, we were invited by the descendants of famous theatrical family, the Booths, for the first-ever full theater performance at The Players, the historic social club in NYC.
We are NYC-based but our productions have traveled from California to Texas to Louisiana and back to New York City, where we have a small blackbox theatre space in Gowanus, Brooklyn called spit&vigor’s tiny baby blackbox theatre. We have a lighting and sound plot and host intimate productions for ten or less audience members.
Theater of guts & guile // blood, sweat, tears // spit & vigor.
Web site: www.spitnvigor.com
Photos by Caitlin Ochs