“God rest her soul,” said Prudence, a young Victorian woman, while reflecting on her dead mother. Unbeknownst to her, she was about to commit some murders of her own.
The School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s latest production “Bonnets: How Ladies of Good Breeding Are Induced to Murder,” directed by Priscilla Lindsay, played on the weekend of Feb. 17. It is an absurd and exciting delve into female rage across history.
“Bonnets” follows three separate stories set in 17th and 19th century England, France and Salem, Mass. The show is narrated by Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Sophia Lane as God, who takes the audience through the different scenes.
The first story is set in 17th-century France and weaves a tale of sexually unsatisfied Claire and her murderous sister-in-law Valerie. Claire begs Valerie to let her spend the night with the man with whom she is currently entangled and Valerie agrees under the condition that she carries out her plan to poison him afterward.
The second scene is two centuries later in Victorian-era England. Here, the protagonist is Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Tessie Morales’s Webster, who plays a servant to a wicked mistress Wolcott. The scene also features a breakout performance delivered by Music, Theatre & Dance junior Grace Lutenske, who presents a delightfully devious channeling of the evil stepmother archetype and steals the show in her scenes. Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Audrey Andrews rounds out the cast as Wolcott’s daughter Georgette — Webster’s unrequited love. Andrews’s performance depicts a young woman who is sheltered and fed up with her overbearing mother: She wants to experience the world through a more positive lens than Wolcott.
Witch trial era–Salem provides the setting of our third scene and it follows puritan sisters Prudence and Fortitude (Music, Theatre & Dance freshmen Kaylin Gines and Sophia Karaz, respectively) as they weigh opposite opinions on “immoral” activities. Prudence finds herself in love with a married man named Daniel and decides that the only way to get what she wants is to frame his wife as a witch. Gines’s Prudence is a motivated young woman who knows what she wants and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it.
“Bonnets” takes an unusual approach to having multiple settings, opting to throw caution to the wind with the space-time continuum. As the show progresses, the rules of time and space get increasingly questionable as characters move fluidly between the three scenes. Playwright Jen Silverman pulls off this unorthodox story structure with a witty and engaging script that holds the audience’s attention from beginning to end.
Music, Theatre & Dance senior Laurence Vance served as the scene designer and set up the stage in such a way that each scene is enclosed in a crooked picture frame. Vance’s set design immediately jumps out to the audience, the frames working well to guide the different scenes and the way that they interact, allowing characters to clearly move between settings. Vance works in excellent conjunction with Mallory Edgell, Music, Theatre & Dance senior and costume designer, whose costume design fits the time period and adjusts with the characters. All of the characters begin the show costumed in era-appropriate white and beige colored costumes, but as characters kill or get killed they change into starkly distinct, fully red costumes.
The show concludes with murders coming to fruition in expected and unexpected ways; the grand finale is a reprise of the opening number, “chop chop,” in which each character mimes a murder.
“Bonnets” weaves a tale of powerful women who are sick of the world that they live in and who show what can happen when people are pushed to their limits. The whole cast and crew seamlessly mold into this world and leave the audience wanting more.
Daily Arts Contributor Will Castle can be reached at email@example.com