Love, revenge, gypsy curses and murder make “Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn” a Victorian melodrama of the highest caliber. As if the play’s plot features aren’t dramatic enough, the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective is adding even more fuel to the fire by having two of their actors take turns playing the villain — Dan Hodge and Damon Bonetti. The pair also co-founded Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, coincidentally.
“Dan originally found this play and has been sitting on it for a while,” says director, Charlotte Northeast. “I read the script and loved it — and I knew he wanted to play the villain. I then knew that Damon would want to play the villain. I couldn’t of course have our two founders audition for the role. The idea then came to me to have them both play the villain. They both would have to learn two roles, and this really gives them the opportunity to show off their talents. This is only the second time they have both been on stage together in the same play.”
“Maria Marten, or the Murder in the Red Barn” is based off of a real-life 1827 murder that took place in the village of Polstead in Suffolk, England. Maria Marten (played by Victoria Goins) is said to have been shot dead by a former lover, William Corder, who will be played by both Hodge and Bonetti, as previously noted.
“My challenge in directing is to find how a modern audience will view the over-the-top notions in the script,” Northeast says. “I want to embrace that world and break the fourth wall to make the show accessible to the audience. But I want to also acknowledge the ridiculousness of the situations on stage. We will have a live piano player serve as the guide for the show and give the audience agency to boo, hiss and things audiences in the 1880s used to do naturally. Listen for the music to get fast or slow to add to the tension and enhance the drama.”
“Maria Marten, or the Murder in the Red Barn” will run through June 24.
Tickets for general admission are $25, $15 for students and $15 for industry members. You can purchase them online at philartistscollective.org or by phone at (267) 521-2210. Performances will take place The Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, located at 302 Hicks Street in Philadelphia.