The Three Faces of Doctor Crippen

  • Theater
  • Comedy
Critics' pick
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Photograph: Tyler Core
The Three Faces of Doctor Crippen

The life of Dr. H. H. Crippen, a homeopath who made a stir in 1910 when his wife's dead body was found hacked to pieces in his basement, is the inspiration for Emily Schwartz’s imaginative dark comedy. This, however, is no ordinary retelling: The three different "Faces" of Dr. Crippen—his Public, Private and Fantasy sides (played by Stuart Ritter, Scott Cupper and Matt Holzfeind, respectively)— depict the thought processes that led to the murder. The concept might sound heavy-handed, but in this riotous, poignant production, it is treated with a light touch. Schwartz's script masterfully balances slapstick with drama, blending the gaudiness of a bad vaudeville act with the absurdism of a Pinter play. The play hews to the facts of the case and spans nearly 25 years, from the beginning of Crippen’s medical career to his eventual execution in a London jail, yet never gets mired in exposition—a testament to director Jimmy McDermott swift, quick-witted staging and the ensemble cast's spot-on comic skill. Although it takes time for the three Faces to fully develop into unique personae, they run the gamut tirelessly between laughter and tragedy, pulling out every trick they can until they all must face the music together.—Chris Corbo

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