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
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.
- Wed, Apr 19New YorkCasey Wimpee’s wild and gripping drama, THE BRUTES, takes you backstage of an historic performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar featuring the renowned Booth family - brothers Edwin, Junius, and John Wilkes Booth. The backstage drama of this theatrical family sets the stage for an American tragedy.
- Thu, Apr 20New YorkCasey Wimpee’s wild and gripping drama, THE BRUTES, takes you backstage of an historic performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar featuring the renowned Booth family - brothers Edwin, Junius, and John Wilkes Booth. The backstage drama of this theatrical family sets the stage for an American tragedy.
From the critically-acclaimed and award-winning company members that brought IN VESTMENTS to The Center at West Park and THE EXECUTION of MRS. COTTON to IRT 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! We're a hit!
"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
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.