Through February 8 |
FACTORY FOR MURDERERS Alleyway Theatre
By Augustine Warner
Some names in history stick out, people, places and events people recognize and think they know about.
Think Jack the Ripper, the sick killer who rampaged through the poverty-stricken East End of London in 1888.
Obviously, he’s a mass murderer, often said to be the first serial killer.
That’s not true since there were undoubtedly serial killers before that.
What’s different here was the rise of mass media, particularly mass literacy and newspaper printing technology giving rise to cheap, abundant newspapers looking for sensational stories and Jack provided that.
What’s different about Scott McCrea’s “Factory for Murderers” is a focus on the social environment in which Jack killed and that’s why the show is worth seeing.
That’s not only the mass prostitution for which London was known, since the five women believed to be Jack’s victims were prostitutes.
Who he was remains a mystery, although many suspected he was upper crust, potentially really upper crust as a son of Queen-Empress Victoria.
It’s by no means clear the murders ended with the five in 1888, either in London or on this side of the pond.
McCrea builds his script on of that time around the mass immigration, tens of thousands of Eastern European Jews on top of tens of thousands of Irish, most scrabbling for the same limited jobs.
The immediate focus of the burgeoning Metropolitan Police was those immigrants, convinced that only some immigrant had the horrible psychological problems displayed in the loathsome behavior of the murderer and what he did to the victims.
The police probably destroyed a lot of the evidence and the paperwork on who they probed as the killer.
Here, their clear target is a cross of the Jewish and Irish immigrants, particularly the boyfriend/husband of one victim, Jack Donovan (James Cichocki), and the British Jew, Joseph Lawende (Trevor Dugan), married to an Eastern European Jewish refugee, Hadassah (Madeline E. Allard), who doesn’t trust the British police or believe Jews are better off in London that in the East.
Joseph is important in a neighborhood committee trying to ID the murderer who gets crossways with Inspector Watkins (Bob Bozek) who is one of the investigators trying to stop the killing.
Prostitutes did what they did to survive and they couldn’t stop just because it was dangerous out there ,because it was always dangerous out there in that line of work.
That’s even as the death toll rises.
The prostitutes are also part of the immigrant soup of the East End.
The story ends in a mystery and the Alleyway doesn’t want us to talk about that ending.
Director Neal Radice has some strong performances to work with, Cichocki’s Donovan, Allard’s Hadassah and Sandra Roberts’ Molly, one of the immigrant prostitutes.
“Factory” has an elaborate set from Todd Warfield, unusual for the Alleyway, which really helps tell the story of this awful, massive slum in the heart of the world’s greatest empire, not far from the massive wealth and lifestyle of the City and Westminster and Mayfair.
Even by the standards of today, Ripper killings were sick and violent.
Without ever figuring out who did the killings, we will never know the motivations of the man who did them.
In “Factory for Murderers,” playwright McCrea expands the story a bit by exploring the sea in which the murderer swam and killed and the overarching story of the impoverished immigrants in a giant slum, immigrants loathed by the governing class.
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